New research shows that e-cigarettes produce highly-reactive free radicals and may pose a health risk to users.
Previous studies have found low levels of aldehydes, chemical compounds that can cause oxidative stress and cell damage, in e-cigarette “smoke.” But until now, no one has looked for free radicals, the main source of oxidative stress from cigarette smoke. Highly reactive free radicals are a leading culprit in smoking-related cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Instead of smoke, e-cigarettes produce aerosols, tiny liquid particles suspended in a puff of air. The researchers measured free radicals in e-cigarette aerosols.
They found that e-cigarettes produce high levels of highly reactive free radicals that fall in the range of 1,000- to 100-times less than levels in regular cigarettes.
“This is the first study that demonstrates the fact that we have these highly reactive agents in e-cigarette aerosols,” Richie said. Results were published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
“The levels of radicals that we’re seeing are more than what you might get from a heavily air-polluted area but less than what you might find in cigarette smoke,” Richie said. The radicals are produced when the device’s heating coil heats the nicotine solution to very high temperatures.