Microbial contaminants found in electronic cigarettes

Credit: Flickr/Vaping360

Several popular electronic cigarettes sold in the United States have tested positive to bacterial and fungal toxins, according to a recent study. 

We tend to think that electronic cigarettes are healthier than normal cigarettes.  However are they really that much better for your?  A recent study into e-cigarettes and a heightened risk of heart problems highlights further doubts about this general assumption.  According to the study, e-cigarettes smokers have a 70% higher risk of a stroke, a 60% higher risk of a heart attack and 40% higher risk of a coronary illness.  However this is not all.  A new study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives on April 24th 2019, highlights another potential health risk.

Bacterial and fungal toxin

The study examined 75 popular models of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids from ten of the most sold brands in the United States.  However the results were not good. It appears that 27% contained traces of endotoxin.  This is a microbial agent found on Gram-negative bacteria which have a thin peptidoglycan cell wall. More than 80% also contained traces of glucan, found on the cell walls of most fungi. If exposed to these contaminants for a long time they can cause health problems in humans, in particular asthma, or a reduction in lung function.

David Christiani, the leading author of the study, highlighted that “Airborne Gram-negative bacterial endotoxin and fungal-derived glucans have been shown to cause acute and chronic respiratory effects in occupational and environmental settings.”  Researchers believed that the discovery of these toxins in electronic cigarette products highlights the potential negative effects for e-smokers particularly in terms of their respiratory functioning.

Microbial contaminants found in electronic cigarettes. Credits: Flickr/Vaping 360

Several possible sources

Researchers discovered that cartridges samples had glucan concentrations which were 3.2 times higher than e-liquid samples.  Glucan samples were also higher in tobacco and menthol flavoured products compared to fruit flavoured products.  However fruit flavoured liquids has more endotoxins.  Researchers believe raw materials used to produce these flavourings could be the source of contamination.  The same could be the case for the cotton wicks used in the cartridges as endotoxins and glucan are known as contaminants in cotton.

On paper, electronic cigarettes are still less dangerous than normal cigarettes which produce hundreds of cancerous chemical products when lit.  However, as this new study highlights, e-cigarettes are by no means harmless and can still have negative effects on our health.


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