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Electronic cigarette aerosol contains 6 times less formaldehyde than tobacco cigarette smoke

Following the extensive media coverage which started with the publication of the results of a study commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Dr Farsalinos, a Greek cardiologist, who has studied the health effects of smoking and use of e-cigarettes, published an article on a  research web site . The summary of this article is featured in our blog.  

He decided to publish the article because following the publication of the results of the study conducted in Japan various media channels provided misleading reports on the study results and a number of people consulted him to find out whether the use of e-cigarettes is truly ten times more harmful to the health than smoking regular cigarettes.

According to Dr Farsalinos, the news titles referred to several carcinogens although the body text of articles concerned only formaldehyde. Dr Farsalinos explains the background: To tell the whole truth, this “substance found in building materials and embalming fluids” is in reality present everywhere in the environment, in every house, in every city, town, village, urban or rural area. So, all the noise in the news media is about one carcinogen, not some carcinogens. Moreover, the title is nothing but misleading since they reported that e-cigarette contains more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette, but in reality only 1 of the 10 products tested contained more formaldehyde than the smoke of a regular cigarette."

The study conducted in Japan analysed the concentrations of carbonyls generated by 13 Japanese e-cigarette brands. The results were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  The results are shown in the table below.

A study by Canadian researchers in 2008 evaluated the levels of formaldehyde in mainstream cigarette smoke. As shown below, the levels were on average 200μg/cigarette, which is 6 times higher than the highest value (34μg) found in e-cigarette aerosol by Japanese.  Moreover, the study showed a much higher level of formaldehyde in sidestream smoke (>800μg/cigarette).

Even in the worst-case Japanese product, e-cigarette aerosol contained 6 times lower formaldehyde levels compared to tobacco cigarette smoke.

Of course, discussion about the maximum levels of a single product is scientifically inappropriate. We should examine the average levels of formaldehyde present in e-cigarette aerosol. The results of the study conducted by the Japanese researchers indicate in the table above that the average levels of formaldehyde were measured at 4.2μg/10 puffs.  Therefore, on average, the levels of formaldehyde in e-cigarettes are up to 50 times lower compared to tobacco cigarette smoke.

According to Dr Farsalinos, we have to realize that focusing the discussion on one of the tens of carcinogens present in tobacco cigarette smoke is misleading. Even if e-cigarettes contained similar, or higher, levels of formaldehyde, they do not contain the majority of other toxic and carcinogenic substances present in cigarette smoke.  Overall, any residual risk from e-cigarette use is orders of magnitude lower than smoking.

Source: 27.12.2014 "Electronic cigarette aerosol contains 6 times LESS formaldehyde than tobacco cigarette smoke"http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php/2013-04-07-09-50-07/2014/188-frm-jp