A recent study, initially reported in the South China Morning Post, made some pretty inflated claims, most notably being that e-cigarette emissions are as much as a million times more harmful than the air in Hong Kong itself. The numbers already seem impossible in and of themselves, but it seems even more incredible when you consider the fact that Hong Kong is itself a heavily polluted area.
The researchers from Hong Kong’s Baptist University examined 13 different e-cigarettes devices on the market, however there is not much more known about the methodology of the study. The researchers claim to have found high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These group of chemicals they claim to have found, however, are released only from burning or combustion. While the study claims to have found PAHs at levels of 2.9 to 504.5 nanograms per milliliter, there is no burning or combustion in e-cigarettes, immediately calling the findings into question.
However, the inconsistencies of the study go beyond that. Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos is a cardiologist and well known e-cigarette expert. He has found further problems with the outrageous claims of the Hong Kong study.
Dr. Farsalinos reported that his research found, “levels of PAHs up to 48 ng/m3 (cubic meter = 1,000,000 (million) mL) in Hong Kong. So, the levels in outdoor air are 48 ng per 1,000,000 mL.” as a result, “the levels in the outdoor air in Hong Kong would result in total daily exposure of 960 ng. The levels of exposure from e-cigarette liquids (as tested by the Hong Kong university and assuming they are correct) are 9-1500 ng. This is from 90 percent less up to 50 percent more than exposure to outdoor air (or, to express it differently, 100 times less to ½ time more). So, the statement ‘1,000,000 times higher levels’ is a completely false.”
Farsalinos continues to point out the inconsistencies in the study, and questioning how the study can make comparisons that simply do not make sense. “How can you compare mLs of inhaled tobacco cigarette smoke with mL of e-liquid? It is simply a joke. The truth is that 1 tobacco cigarette contains by far more PAHs than what they reported they found in 1 mL of liquid.”
The truth is, there has been evidence mounting for a while now that e-cigarette vapor is not only safer than regular cigarette smoke, but that is also comparable to the air breathe every day.
A few recent studies seem to point toward e-cigarette vapor being of a similar quality, if not even potentially safer than the air we breathe. One study in the journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology measured eight kinds of harmful and potential harmful constituents (HPHC). When combined, the weight of all the HPHC found in the e-cigarette vapor was less than 0.17 milligram. Ambient air, on the other hand, was estimated to have 0.16 milligrams of HPHCs. Another following study published in the Journal of Chromatography A measured levels of 156 different volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in e-cig vapor and regular indoor air. In the two e-cigarettes tested, they found 17 VOCs in one and 25 VOCs in the other. Indoor air, on the other hand, tested for 36 VOCs, more than e-cigarette vapor. With these kinds of facts, it’s hard to see where e-cigarette vapor could be in anyway as much as a million times more harmful than any air, let alone Hong Kong air.
The new study doesn’t seem to hold much water, but that doesn’t stop it from doing damage. Whether there was simply a faulty study in place, or a calculated effort to misinform the public, the facts seem to point away from any possibility of this report’s claims being accurate.