August 7, 2015
“In any case, finding similar amounts of TSNAs in liquid and aerosol verifies that the levels of exposure through aerosol inhalation are by far lower compared to smoking.”
Many vapers are familiar with the work of Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos. For those that aren’t, you can learn more here .
Farsalinos has published more than 30 studies on health concerns pertaining to e-cigarettes. The most recent example is a study published on Jul 31st in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The full text of the study can be found here.
In this study, Farsalinos et al. examines the levels of tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) found in the aerosol produced by e-liquids. TSNAs are known to be very strong carcinogens found at dangerously high levels in tobacco cigarette smoke.
TSNAs are naturally occurring in cured tobacco (they are not present in green tobacco leaves). Manufacturers of high quality, 99.9% pure nicotine, remove almost all TSNAs with a sophisticated (and expensive) filtering process. E-liquids manufactured with high quality nicotine still contain TSNAs. But at trace levels that are a fraction of those found in cigarettes.
Increases in levels of TSNAs as the result of tobacco combustion is not fully understood but significant increases are suspected. The question addressed by Farsalinos’ study is whether or not the much lower temperatures of e-cigarettes produce an increased level of TSNAs in the resulting aerosol. Are the levels over and above those found in the e-liquid itself?
Three commercially available e-liquids were tested. And for control purposes, the Farsalinos study created a fourth “spiked” e-liquid by adding known amounts of TSNAs.
Analysis of the aerosols produced by the off the shelf e-liquids resulted in levels of all four TSNAs below the limits of detection. In spite of the fact that detectable levels of TSNAs in all three of the commercial e-liquids tested were documented prior to heating.
Heating of e-liquids at vaping temperatures not only failed to increase TSNAs, the resulting aerosol actually had TSNA levels below those of the unheated e-liquids. Levels so low they were undetectable.
By contrast, analysis of the aerosol produced by the “spiked” e-liquid produced high levels of all four TSNAs consistent with the known amounts that were added.
“Therefore, the analysis of TSNAs levels in the liquid would be enough to estimate the exposure of consumers to these substances, without the need to perform more complex and expensive analyses in the aerosol.”
I blogged last week about the media frenzy that followed the publication of a University of Southern California study funded by the NIH and FDA’s CTP. Dozens of major and minor media outlets carried the story. And continue to do so. Many with dramatic headlines irrelevant to the actual findings of the study.
Studies like the one done by USC’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science are the perfect stomping ground for media hype. Definitive conclusions are virtually impossible. Which explains why the study itself uses terms such as “suggests”, “correlated” and “positively associated”. All of which allows the media to spin the study any way they want to. Anything suggesting a threat to youth, regardless of how baseless it may be, is money in the bank.
This Farsalinos study was conducted by two M.D.s, a PhD in organic chemistry, and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. The study presents detailed information on the questions they were attempting to answer, the methods they employed, the exact results they obtained and the conclusions drawn from those results. Media coverage was predictably a fraction of that afforded the USC study. Objective science is difficult to spin without looking and sounding like a fool.
Comparison of the two studies offers insight into the philosophical differences underlying the e-cigarette debate. The public health sector, opponents of harm reduction and virtually all federally funded research continues to base their positions on the question of “What if?” The scientific community stubbornly continues to base their position on the question of “What is?”
Which question will save more lives?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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.