Certain E-Cig Flavours Can Destroy Lung Function, According To Researchers

Having a sweet tooth could be worse for your health than previously thought as chemicals found in two popular e-cigarette flavours could be seriously damaging to your lungs.

Harvard researchers have found the ingredient called diacetyl - used in the popcorn and caramel flavours - can stop the cilia in the airways from working correctly.

Cilia are microscopic hairs that keep our airways clear of mucus and dirt making it easier to breath, but if the cilia don't work properly it can lead lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Although diacetyl is found in things like microwavable butter popcorn it's deemed much safer to eat than breath in - making vaping a dangerous option.


Due to risks posed by the ingredient, some manufacturers have decided to use a different chemical, 2,3-pentanedione.

This ingredient is often found in things like beer and in e-cigs it can be used to make the vapour taste like caramel.

However, some scientists say this chemical is just as dangerous as diacetyl and can destroy the cilia in the same way.

The Harvard report says the researchers exposed normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells to the chemicals for 24 hours.

Scientists found both chemicals, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, were linked with the changes to the cilia.

Even when they were exposed to low levels of the chemicals there was destruction done to the cilia - and the study suggests that any standards in place for vapers aren't stringent enough.

"E-cigarette users are heating and inhaling flavouring chemicals that were never tested for inhalation safety," said Joseph Allen, associate professor of environmental genetics and pathophysiology, and co-author of the study.

"Although some e-cig manufacturers are stating that they do not use diacetyl or 2,3-pentanedione, it begs an important question--what chemicals, then, are they using for flavouring?

"Further, workers receive warnings about the dangers of inhaling flavouring chemicals. Why aren't e-cig users receiving the same warnings?"


Previously a study suggested that vaping could be linked to a condition dubbed 'popcorn lung'.

However, this particular study did not prove that vaping causes popcorn lung; it only showed that some flavoured e-cigarette vapours contained this chemical.

It said: "Because of the associations between diacetyl and bronchiolitis obliterans ... urgent action is recommended to further evaluate the extent of this new exposure to diacetyl and related flavouring compounds in e-cigarettes."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Rachael Grealish

Rachael is a NCTJ qualified journalist from West Cumbria, with a passion for news, features and journalism. Outside of work Rachael loves plenty of coffee, running and reading.

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