E-cig vapor poses ‘no apparent concern,’ says Drexel vaping study

Many anti-tobacco advocates often make the claim that the secondhand vapor from e-cigs is just as harmful as the secondhand smoke of combustible cigarettes.  However, even as far back as 2013, new information has come to light that cigarette smoke may not be as deadly as once believed.  In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) entitled  No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer, scientists suggest that secondhand smoke is far less hazardous than public health officials would like us to believe. 

No one disputes that either secondhand vapor or cigarette smoke can be somewhat annoying to the average non-smoker.  But should public health officials be intentionally creating and spreading misinformation to the American People about the theoretical dangers of either vaping or smoking, simply as a method to ban both actions in public places?  A vaping study from a scientist at Drexel University extracted over 9,000 scientific observations from already-published medical research on the subject of secondhand e-cig vapor, and his conclusions show “no apparent concern” for health risks to innocent bystanders.

Overview of Drexel vaping study

The vaping study was conducted by Drexel University’s Igor Burstyn and crowd-funded by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA).  The report entitled Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks is readily available for review in its entirety on the BMC Public Health website.

  • Rather than conduct new research on the potential health hazards of secondhand vapor in the workplace, Burstyn chose to rely on already-published toxicology reports from other reliable sources and studies.
  • The Drexel team complied over 9,000 scientific observations from both “grey“ literature and peer-review material.
  • The researchers focused only on data using worst-case scenarios of Threshold Limit Values (TLVs).
  • They then looked for evidence identifying increased levels of acrolein, aldehydes, hydrocarbons, and other contaminates in the secondhand vapor.
  • Identified contaminates were “orders of magnitude less” than previously predicted.

“Current state of knowledge about chemistry of liquids and aerosols associated with electronic cigarettes indicates that there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces. However, the aerosol generated during vaping as a whole (contaminants plus declared ingredients) creates personal exposures that would justify surveillance of health among exposed persons in conjunction with investigation of means to keep any adverse health effects as low as reasonably achievable. Exposures of bystanders are likely to be orders of magnitude less, and thus pose no apparent concern.”

The Drexel study is further supported by more recent research compiled and published by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) earlier this year.  DPH scientist monitored the air quality of vape shops in the area while measuring for some twenty different carcinogens and toxins.  And much like the Drexel research, the California study took place under worst case conditions.

The vape shops were filled with not one but several active vapers at the time, and the scientists still could not identify any measurable levels of aldehydes (including the often-quoted formaldehyde), benzene, xylene, or other contaminants.  Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health even says that the levels of the twenty measured contaminates are “consistent with normal indoor and outdoor air.”


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