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E-Juice: Diacetyl Revisited

Several bottles of eliquid

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned knowing what is in your e-juice, as some substances in your e-juice could prove to be devastating to your health. Recently there has been quite a stir in the electronic cigarette community regarding the chemical known as diacetyl in e-juices. Diacetyl is an FDA approved substance that gives a buttery and creamy taste to substances. When ingested it is safe, in fact many of the foods you buy at the grocery store (especially the ones with artificial flavoring) most likely has diacetyl in it. However, when copious amounts of diacetyl is inhaled, it can severely damage your lungs. Long-term exposure to diacetyl via inhalation can cause something called obliterative bronchiolitis (also known as popcorn lung) which is a rare syndrome that hinders respiratory function. Obliterative bronchiolitis is when the bronchioles in the lungs are being compressed and narrowed by scar tissue and/or inflammation. Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. What is so scary about this disease is it is irreversible, and the worst cases of obliterative bronchiolitis would result in lung transplant.

E-juice manufacturers know (or should know) of the dangers behind diacetyl and the good vendors and manufacturers avoid using flavorings containing diacetyl when making their e-juice. They even go as far as to say that their e-juice does not contain diacetyl as part as their advertisement. In the last month, Dr. Farsolinos published results of his diacetyl research in electronic cigarette e-juices. In his research, he took 159 eliquid samples from various vendors who have claimed to not have any diacetyl in their flavorings. The 159 E-Liquid samples came from 36 manufacturers from both the USA and Europe. His findings were troubling as over 74% of the e-juices he tested positive for both diacetyl and acetyl propionyl. Before you take out the pitchforks and start an outcry against the e-juice manufacturers, having made my e-juice (going on two months now) I can confirm not all flavoring companies list that they have diacetyl in their flavorings. Now I am not saying that the manufacturers are not at fault as some of them could indeed be deceitful in their advertising, but the flavoring companies could just misinform some manufacturers. The Flavor Apprentice or The Perfume Apprentice (TFA or TPA for short) are very transparent on their website on what does and does not have diacetyl, however some other companies do not list it such as Flavor West and Flavor Art.

Dr. Farsolinos’s study also measured the safety limits of the e-juices that contained diacetyl and acetyl propionyl. Using the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) guidelines, it was found that both diacetyl and acetyl propionyl were found to have more than double times the NIOSH safety guidelines. It is worth noting however that both diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are found in regular cigarettes. However, the levels of concentration in regular cigarettes are a 100 times more for diacetyl and ten times more for acetyl propionyl than the e-juices that were tested. Considering obliterative bronchiolitis is not a known disease among smokers (even the heavy pack a day smokers) we can assume that even at double the NIOSH standards the levels of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are not fatal. This is just an assumption much more research of the effects of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are needed before making a clear judgment.

The most interesting part of the study that I found was diacetyl can be found in all the sweet e-juices. It was a known fact that diacetyl is present in most custard and creamy e-juices as that is where the cream and butter flavoring comes from, but some of the fruity and sweet e-juices and a lot of people in the community thought they were diacetyl free. Now granted Dr. Farsolinos was not transparent about the levels of diacetyl in each individual ejuice so we can’t compare the fruit ejuice diacetyl levels to that of the cream and custard e-juices. However, I would assume that the e-juices with creamy and custardy tones should have a higher concentration of diacetyl than that of the fruit and sweet flavors.

Before anyone swears off electronic cigarettes completely (which is not the point of this article by the way) the levels of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl present are higher than the NIOSH standards, BUT they are severely lower than that of regular cigarettes. In terms of getting obliterative bronchiolitis, it is still a lot safer to use electronic cigarettes over regular cigarettes as the diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are much lower, but just because they are lower, we cannot dismiss diacetyl being in our e-liquids immediately. If they flavors do have diacetyl, they should be avoided if possible. In fact, TFA/TPA is coming out with a new line of custard and cream flavors (known as the V2) that contain little to no diacetyl in their flavorings. I am hesitant to believe there aren’t at least traces of diacetyl present as we already know even some fruit flavors have them. But hopefully it will meet the NIOSH standards with their new line. With TFA/TPA spearheading non-diacetyl rich flavorings, it is my hope that other flavoring companies are following the same practice. Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular every day; the flavoring companies need to meet the demands of the community and avoid diacetyl in their flavorings if possible.


Study can be found below:


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