Fungal And Bacterial Contamination Found In Leading E-Cigarette Cartridges: Study

As health experts continue to raise concerns about the potential health risks with vaping, a new study suggests that e-cigarrette liquids and cartridges often contain harmful environmental toxins, including fungus and bacteria. 

Harvard researchers warn that e-cigarette users may not only be exposed to harmful chemicals and irritants when vaping, but to bacterial and fungal contaminants that can lead to other health concerns as well. The findings were published April 24 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers tested 37 e-cigarette cartridge products and 38 e-liquid products with the highest nicotine content from the ten top-selling U.S. brands. They classified flavors into four groups: tobacco, menthol, fruit, and other, and measured levels of endotoxins and glucan.

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Endotoxins are inflammatory molecules found in bacteria and glucan is a toxic substance found in the cell walls of most fungi. Both toxins can cause lung disease or lead to asthma and other respiratory problems.

The testing indicated endotoxin concentrations were over the limit of detection in 17 of 75 products. In other words, nearly one-quarter of e-cigarette products contained endotoxins.

The findings also indicate that more than 81% of e-cigarette products contained concentrations of glucan that were greater than the limit of detection. The glucan concentrations in tobacco flavored e-cigarette products were 10.4 times higher than in fruit flavored products. Similarly, concentrations in menthol flavored e-cigarettes were 3.5 times higher than in fruit-flavored products.

Average glucan concentrations were 3.2 times higher in cartridge products than in e-liquid samples.

Manufacturers of vape products said they didn’t know where the toxins came from and the contamination could have happened at any point during or after the production of the ingredients. However, some companies suggested the cotton wicks used in e-cigarette cartridges could be the source, since endotoxins and glucan are know to contaminate cotton fibers.

Researchers said the presence of endotoxins and glucan do not automatically mean they will cause health concerns, but their presence makes health problems a possibility.

The findings are concerning since nearly 5 million middle and high school students in the U.S. now vape, exposing them to potentially toxic substances.

Exposure to bacterial and fungal toxins is not the only worry for e-cigarette users. A study published in 2018 indicated people who vape are exposed to many carcinogenic chemicals, including acrolein and benzene. Other studies have warned that the impurities in e-cigarettes may increase users risk of suffering heart problems and damage the user’s DNA.

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