Introduction: Electronic cigarettes, also known as an e-cigarette, are battery-powered devices that use a heating element to convert a liquid (“e-liquid”) into an inhalable aerosol. Their advertised use is as a nicotine delivery system minus the harmful chemicals. Since “e-liquids” and the electronic cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it is not well known under what conditions, if any, carcinogenic compounds are produced. There has been little research on the toxicity of electronic cigarettes. The aim of this study was to determine if formaldehyde or acetaldehyde are formed from the e-liquid by the high heat of the electronic cigarette.
Materials and Methods: Vapors from 5 brands of e-liquid were produced using a Kangertech Dripbox which has a max output of 60 watts. The vapors were trapped in a solution containing acetonitrile and 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) to create DNPH derivatives of any volatile organic compounds that may have formed. The DNPH solution was measured using high-performance liquid chromatography with diode-array detection.
Results: Each of the 5 e-liquids produced formaldehyde after being heated by the electronic cigarette. The levels of formaldehyde ranged from 8.28 µg/mL (8.28 ppm) to 36.08 µg/mL (36.08 ppm). Acetaldehyde was not confirmed as being present in the e-liquid or in the vapors of any of the 5 samples.
Conclusion: Decomposition due to heat yields a significant amount of formaldehyde. These levels of formaldehyde are well above what the Center for Disease Control considers a high exposure level. Formaldehyde has been found in numerous studies to be carcinogenic to humans.
Matranga, Austin; Sellers, Olivia; and Gartner, Matthew, "A Pilot Study Analyzing Solvents in Electronic Cigarette “E-liquid” Using High Performance Liquid Chromatography" (2016). Student Research Day Abstracts and Posters. 189.