Electronic cigarettes have been thought to be a less dangerous alternative to traditional cigarettes. But reports of lung injury-related deaths from vaping confirm that e-cigarettes are not risk-free. Dr. Jon Ebbert, director of Mayo Clinic's Inhaled Particle Aerosol Lab, analyzed the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes to learn more about what's making people sick.
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"There are lots of different chemical classes in the aerosol that we need to understand because, depending on exposure over time, they could lead to adverse health consequences," says Dr. Ebbert.
Right now, no one knows what's produced when e-cigarette juice is heated and aerosolized.
"You actually produce new chemical species in the aerosol that don't exist in the e-liquid because of the heating process. And what we need to understand is there's a lot of different products on the market, they're all operating at different temperatures, and those temperatures and the e-liquids in those substances result in potentially toxic exposures," says Dr. Ebbert.
These toxic ingredients may contribute to vaping-related illness.
"What we're trying to do in our lab is really focus on the aerosol because the aerosol is the risk," says Dr. Ebbert.