How concerned should you be over the health risks of vaping?

The multitude of vaping products on the market includes delicious flavors, incredible varieties, and an assortment of technologies that deliver impressive clouds. While it's easy to get lost in a world of enjoyment and flavored entertainment, it is a good idea to stay up to date on the common vaping health risks.

Over the last few decades, the track record has shown that vape health risks are minimized with quality manufacturing and pure ingredients. While safe vaping and vape devices have been around for years, what's different now is that the US CDC has stated that there have been over 2100 reports of health issues and at least 30 deaths associated with new bootleg cartridges. These cartridges, along with other technical flaws in vaping devices, could be delivering potentially toxic substances.

Vaping vs Smoking

The comparative health risks of vaping and smoking are difficult to measure due to the short time of exposure that humans have had to vape products. These vaporizing devices really took off in 2015 when Juul devices hit the market. One of the significant ideas that vaping enthusiasts claim is that vaping nicotine is healthier than smoking tobacco. While users may experience a subjective lightening of the lungs when switching to vaping, there could be other elements causing issues with respiratory health.

Photo: Josie_Desmarais via Getty Images

One concern is the overheating of the vaping liquids, which can easily result in toxic chemicals. This excessive heat can lead to thermal degradation. This degradation can result in the inhalation of poisonous substances. The base products of many e-liquids are PG/VG propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Formaldehyde is a known result of the thermal degradation of propylene glycol. This common VG/PG mix has been shown to result in small concentrations of formaldehyde when vaped at high temperatures.

Toxic Metal Substances

The metals and materials being used to make vape rigs and cartridges could be impacting the smoke as well. A sample of e-liquids from various parts of assorted e-cigarette devices was tested in a well-respected study. Closed system cartridges were found to have significantly higher levels of heavy metals then open-system refillable gear. Vaping oils have been shown to contain chromium, nickel, and lead.

The conditions required for vaping causes the formation of aerosolized chemicals, or air pockets containing chemicals. These aerosols can contain harmful heavy metals, which can lead to pulmonary and neurological health issues. These risks are especially present with vape devices that do not manage temperature properly. The chances of metal contamination are also heightened in the vaping industry since the materials are not yet regulated and standardized.

High Concentrations Of Nicotine

As we mentioned above, some vape users claim that vaping is a better alternative to smoking. However, specific e-liquid preparations for both refillable and closed cartridge systems feature amounts of nicotine that put tobacco to shame. Increasing intervals of stronger nicotine levels in vape juices indicate a higher likelihood of relapse or beginning to smoke tobacco. With statistics like this, vaporizing nicotine does not seem to be much healthier from a psychological standpoint when compared to plant-based nicotine use.

When the situation is assessed correctly, the long-term health effects of vaping these ingredients have not yet been identified. It is possible that with clean ingredients and proper heating techniques, the risks of vaping can be well contained. Ultimately, taking in large amounts of nicotine-containing aerosols, or the "clouds" users covet, may not be optimal for lung health in the first place.

The THC Chase

Specific sources are indicating that the THC vaporization itself is a cause for concern. In reality, it is the vitamin E acetate that is included in some bootleg THC cartridges that is of concern. The other reasons for worrying are the likely byproducts of excessive heat and the heavy metals that are potentially contained in vapor clouds. Even smoking rolled cannabis flowers results in vaporized cannabinoids. When smoking, the heat and smoke of the burnt "cherry" at the end of a cigarette are drawn through the rest of the plant material. As the heat passes through, it vaporizes the active plant compounds. These vaporized compounds are drawn into the lungs before the plant material is even burned.

Even smoking has a particular "vaporization" quality attached to it! This information indicates that it is not the act of vaporizing THC, which is causing the recent health issues. It is, in fact, the other dangerous elements surrounding improper mechanical vaporization that are leading to health-risks.

The Final Verdict

As noted, there has been a rash of vaporizing health issues associated with bootleg vape cartridges in 2019. We hope that proper education about the root causes of this issue will result in harm reduction. To experience the safest vaporizing effects, stick with distributors who have transparent sourcing, testing, and manufacturing practices.

There is currently a court order from 2016 that requires companies selling flavored vaporizing products to put in an application for FDA approval by May 2020. While this could lead to good regulatory practices, so far, the only contenders who could meet the considerable demands of the application were companies who were backed by big tobacco. Tobacco regulators have ignored consumer health and chosen profit in the past, so we can only hope that they will implement proper quality control in the budding vape industry.

Read next: Is A Plant-Based Diet The Best For You? (infographic)
Previous Post Next Post