Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl – What Have We Learned?

Vaper’s Vortex

June 23, 2015

“It is not a situation where one number is OK and another is not. There are many factors to be considered.”


Vapor Shark recently sent a shockwave reverberating through the vaping world. They submitted 252 e-liquids from 42 manufacturers to Enthalpy Analytical, Inc. 38 of the juices were Vapor Shark’s own brand. The samples were tested for the presence of Diacetyl (DA) and Acetyl Propionyl (AP). Vapor Shark then published the lab reports, by individual product, on their website.

Fortunately, the results of lab tests have been consolidated into a single document. I’m not sure who did the consolidating but whoever you are – thank you!

The results of the lab testing were manually transcribed (introducing the possibility of human error) from Vapor Shark’s website into a color coded summary of the results which can be seen here.

The color coding was based on the testing protocol of the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada (ECTA) – here. According to Vapor Shark’s website, they are a member of AEMSA but there is no indication that they are an ECTA member.

All ECTA members are required to submit e-liquid samples for testing every six months. Testing for members is performed by the same lab used by Vapor Shark, Enthalpy Analytical. The “minimum detection levels” used for the tests performed on behalf of ECTA members are:

  • Diacetyl: 0.742 µg/ml (ppm)
  • Acetyl Propionyl: 0.840 µg/ml (ppm)

Note: “µg/ml” = micrograms per ml and is synonymous with ppm or parts per million.

Tolerances

The following are the tolerances used by ECTA for their members.

Diacetyl

  • Not Detected (ND)
  • <22 µg/ml – ECTA members not required to disclose
  • <100 µg/ml – ECTA members are required to disclose to consumers if the product remains on the market.
  • >100 µg/ml – Fail – ECTA members are required to immediately stop sale of the product. The product can again be sold only after reformulation and retesting showing that it meets acceptable tolerances.

Acetyl Propionyl

  • Not Detected (ND)
  • <45 µg/ml – ECTA members not required to disclose
  • <100 µg/ml – ECTA members are required to disclose to consumers if the product remains on the market.
  • >100 µg/ml – Fail – ECTA members are required to immediately stop sale of the product. The product can again be sold only after reformulation and retesting showing that it meets acceptable tolerances.

The Results

Diacetyl

  • Not Detected: Out of 252 e-liquids tested, 180 or 71% did not have Diacetyl present above the limits of detection.
  • <22µg/ml: 60 e-liquids or 23% tested below 22 ppm.
  • <100µg/ml: 7 e-liquids or 2% tested at or above 22 ppm but below 100 ppm. ECTA members are required to disclose to consumers.
  • >100µg/ml: 1 e-liquid or 0.4% tested above 100 ppm for Diacetyl. ECTA members required to immediately remove from market.

Acetyl Propionyl

  • Not Detected: 153 e-liquids or 61% did not have AP present (above the limits of detection).
  • <45µg/ml: 35 e-liquids or 14% tested below 45 ppm.
  • <100µg/ml: 8 e-liquids or 3% tested at or above 45 ppm but below 100 ppm. ECTA members are required to disclose to consumers.
  • >100µg/ml: 54 e-liquids or 21% tested above 100 ppm for AP. And again, ECTA members are required to immediately remove from market.

Only eight of the e-liquids tested, less than 3% overall, contained DA above 22 ppm. In a recent podcast interview, Konstantinos Farsalinos indicated that DA levels in the neighborhood of 20 ppm are the result of contamination (probably from other e-liquids). At very low levels, a vaper would not be able to taste the DA. That would indicate the DA was not intentionally added to these flavors.

Flavor manufacturers have turned to AP as a DA substitute. 62 e-liquids (24% overall) yielded AP levels above 45 ppm. By ECTA standards, 21% or one in five of the e-liquids tested would have to be immediately removed from the market. They could not be marketed again until reformulated and retested for acceptable AP levels.

Flavor extract manufacturers responded to the widely publicized health risks associated with DA. AP is a close cousin of DA and has the same flavor. It also presents the same health risks associated with DA.

The vast majority of vapers are former smokers. As a group, vapers are well above average when it comes to their commitment to healthier lifestyle choices. And as a group, they are a $6 billion worldwide market that is projected to grow to $50 billion or more. Numbers like that are very difficult to ignore.

How should the vaping industry address this challenge? Who are the stakeholders? How will they respond? Will supply dictate demand? Or will demand define supply? We’ll examine these questions in my next blog.


We are sincerely interested in your thoughts and comments! Please join the conversation and invite others by sharing this post! Thank you for visiting our site and we hope that you will come back often!

Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at dave@diyels.com .

The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.

One thought on “Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl – What Have We Learned?

  1. If GC-FID testing isn’t correctly calibrated, it can give erroneously low results for oxygen-containing molecules like DA and AP. I’m not an expert, admittedly, but this may explain the discrepancies and could suggest that GC-MS results are more reliable.

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