There are potentially dangerous levels of toxic metals found in e-cigarettes.

Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users.

This is according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

They examined e-cigarette devices owned by 56 users and found that significant numbers of the devices generated aerosols with potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese and/or nickel.

The danger of e-cigarettes

Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers.

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The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes but is still considering how to do so. The finding that e-cigarettes expose users – known as vapers – to what may be harmful levels of toxic metals could make this issue a focus of future FDA rules.

“It’s important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals – which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale,” says study senior author Ana María Rule, PhD, MHS, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers

How does it happen?

E-cigarettes typically use a battery-supplied electric current that passes through a metal coil to heat nicotine-containing “e-liquids”, creating an aerosol – a mix including vaporised e-liquid and tiny liquid droplets.

E-cigarette heating coils are typically made of nickel, chromium and a few other elements, making them the most obvious sources of metal contamination, although the source of the lead remains a mystery. Precisely how metals get from the coil into the surrounding e-liquid is another mystery.

“We don’t know yet whether metals are chemically leaching from the coil or vaporising when it’s heated,” Rule says.

Rule and her team are now planning further studies of vaping and metal exposures, with particular attention to their impacts on people. “We’ve established with this study that there are exposures to these metals, which is the first step, but we need also to determine the actual health effects,” she says.

Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health via www.sciencedaily.com

Related: Why flavoured e-cigarettes are risky

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