“There’s a perception that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, or at least not as harmful as regular cigarettes,” says John P. Richie Jr., PhD, professor of public health sciences and pharmacology. “While e-cigarette vapor does not contain many of the toxic substances that are known to be present in cigarette smoke, it’s still important for us to figure out and to minimize the potential dangers that are associated with e-cigarettes.”Despite their growing popularity (more than 20 percent of young adults have tried e-cigarettes), very little is known about toxic substances produced by e-cigarettes and their health effects. Previous study detected toxic compounds like benzene, formaldehyde, and heavy metals in the vapor.
This is the first study to detect free radicals in e-cig aerosols, which is noteworthy, since free radicals are a leading cause of smoking-related cancer, COPD, and cardiovascular disease, Penn State researchers note. While the levels of free radicals are 100 to 1,000 times less than in regular cigarettes, it’s still a threat to your health.
“The levels of radicals that we’re seeing are more than what you might get from a heavily air-polluted area but less than what you might find in cigarette smoke,” Richie notes. The radicals are produced when the device’s heating coil heats the nicotine solution to very high temperatures.