Beware: e-cigarette vapor contains (gasp!) air.

posted by Carl V. Phillips

We continue Ellen Hahn week here at Anti-THR Lies (not to be confused with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, since only one of them is about a single-minded evolutionary throwback whose actions are likely to kill hundreds of people every year if left unchecked).  We already addressed the rhetoric from her anti-e-cigarette poster, which is designed to trick people into being irrationally fearful about common chemicals.  This includes, specifically, the common (as in: found in pretty much everything in the biosphere) organic chemicals, acetone and xylene.  But how much of those chemicals is actually found in e-cigarette liquid or vapor?

The particular source that Hahn cites in her recent advocacy paper (which is the only reference in the poster and is consistent with other study results) found a concentration of less than 1/1000th of NIH’s recommended exposure limit for acetone in the air, close to 1/10,000th of the OSHA limit.  There are arguments that these limits are a bit too high, especially for some sensitive people, but not 1000 times too high.  Moreover, those US government specified limits are for someone’s average exposure throughout the day, so the exposure from vaping needs to be averaged across the entire day for comparison, making it far less than a one millionth of the exposure that is considered worrisome.   The ratios for xylene are a bit lower still.

In case Hahn simply does not understand what these numbers mean, the author of the study she cited (and thus what she implicitly claims is a sufficient source of information about this topic unambiguously concluded that these his results show there is no unexpected risk from this exposure.   So Hahn has no room to plead ignorance.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate that Hahn’s claim — that people should worry about e-cigarettes because of these two chemicals — is a blatant lie, however, is not a comparison to recommended maximum limits, but a comparison to air.  The concentrations of these chemicals in e-cigarette vapor — again, using those 2008 numbers — was only a few times higher than what is found in the outdoor air that most of us breathe.  A lot of what was measured was from the air, in other words, especially because the indoor air in a research facility might have concentrations many times as high as outdoor air.

Since these chemicals are at only slightly higher concentrations than the air, and since someone’s total volume of vapor intake is so small, when someone takes a pull on an e-cigarette and then tops it off with a full breath, most of the acetone and xylene in their airways is from the air, not the e-cigarette.  Someone who doubles their breathing rate for a minute or two, say by walking briskly or speaking, takes in more extra acetone and xylene than they would from a vaping session.

What is more, a more recent study found that the concentration of xylene the vapor was indistinguishable from that of the air.  That is, basically all of the measured xylene was contributed by the primary ingredient of vapor (air) rather than the additional contributions from the e-cigarette itself.

If Hahn was really worried about acetone exposure, she would be trying to shut down nail salons (where it often exceeds OSHA standards for the workers, and customers and innocent passers-by are exposed) not vaping.  But, of course, she does not really care.  She is just hunting for sciency-sounding anti-THR lies.

2 responses to “Beware: e-cigarette vapor contains (gasp!) air.

  1. Pingback: Beware: e-cigarette vapor contains (gasp!) air. | vapeforlife

  2. Reminds me of that “How Gullible Are We” experiment about “Dihydrogen Monoxide” and how deadly it can be. :P

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