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San Diego State University: Vaping reduces in-home air pollution

San Diego State University (SDSU) is making news with the release of a new vaping study regarding known causes and effects of in-home air pollution predominantly in lower income households.  The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a member of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).  By focusing on the air quality of lower income households, the goal of the SDSU scientists was to determine specific protocols which can greatly improve the long-term health of these higher risk children.

The research team was led by Neil Klepeis, an environmental scientist at the university, Melbourne Hovell, a principal scientific investigator and researcher in behavior health issues, and co-investigator Suzanne Hughes.   They began their research by selecting nearly 300 families to participate.  Each household consisted of at least one smoker and one child under the age of fourteen.  Two air particle monitors were then installed in the families’ homes, one in the child’s bathroom and one near the area most commonly used for the smoking of cigarettes.

"Our primary goal was to figure out what's happening in houses that leads to higher air particle levels and, in turn, to unhealthy environments for kids."
-Per a SDSU Press Release of May 18, 2017

The study is entitled Fine particles in homes of predominantly low-income families with children and smokers: Key physical and behavioral determinants to inform indoor-air-quality interventions and can be located on the Public Library of Science (PLOS) website.

Overview of the San Diego State vaping study

Once the two monitors were installed into each of the participating families’ homes, the SDSU scientists then routinely scanned the air quality for ultra-fine particles as small as 0.5 millimeters.  Air particles of this size could include those derived from fungal spores, everyday dust, automobile emissions, and, of course, the smoke from tobacco cigarettes or the vapor from e-cigs.  It is tiny particles like these that are easily breathed into the lungs which can result in all sorts of medical disorders.  


Over the next three months, the in-home monitors would scan the air and automatically transmit the data back to the SDSU laboratories.   Twice during the three-month period, the researchers visited each home and conducted interviews where they asked about certain activities being conducted at certain times of the day.  Activities included the usual types, such as cooking, cleaning, and smoking. 

What the scientists discovered is simply fascinating.

  • The air quality of households where in-home smoking was allowed had twice the levels of air particle pollution than in households whose smokers typically traveled outside to smoke.
  • Cigarette smoke was the primary contributor to the doubled increase, although marijuana smoke was also a primary factor, which seemed to surprise the research team.
  • But of the 14.1 percent of households which allowed vaping indoors and not smoking, there appeared to be no significant increase in pollution levels compared to those homes who did not have any family members who neither smoked nor vaped.
  • According to the published findings,

“We observed no apparent difference in the weekly mean particle distribution between 43 homes reporting any electronic cigarette usage and those reporting none.”

The findings of the SDSU air quality study seem to support previous research from Dr. Theodore Puck in the 1940s.  Puck’s research from 1945 indicates that vaporized propylene glycol – a common ingredient used in e-liquids – is known to kill several forms of airborne bacteria, including pneumococci, streptococci and staphylococci (see below link).  So, the assertion that vaping reduces air pollution in the home is not a significant stretch.


Why hasn’t this San Diego State vaping study made national news?

E-cig studies such as these tend to make national headlines, but not the SDSU study.  For one thing, San Diego is located in the glorious state of California.  And while Californians love their legalized marijuana, they also seem to aggressively hate vaping for some reason.

However, this is not the first SDSU vaping study which has shown extremely positive results for the vaping industry.  In early 2017, another team of university scholars published a similar report focusing on the reasons why college student tend to vape (see the below link).  For good or for bad, SDSU seems to have a vested interest in the public health benefits (or risks) associated with vaping. 


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