Formaldehyde in e-cigarettes – what are the facts?


The anti-vape brigade is always at it, trying to scream at the world that using e-cigarettes will cause cancer. One such article from The Sun warns of dangerous substances – including formaldehyde – present in vapor.

Formaldehyde, of course, is the chemical used to preserve bodies during embalming, so it presents a grisly image to think it’s in your vape. That’s exactly the image these articles are praying on, trying to scare consumers out of using e-cigarettes.

First of all, what you think you know about formaldehyde is probably not true. Just because it’s used in embalming doesn’t mean any quantity is toxic or poisonous. Our bodies naturally produce formaldehyde, and it’s also present in some foods, such as pears. It has been linked by some studies to some cancers, but this evidence is far from conclusive.

Second, many of the studies showing high levels of formaldehyde don’t consider how vapers actually use their e-cigarettes. The PG and some flavourings in e-juice can degrade into formaldehyde as part of an incomplete combustion reaction, but this only happens when the temperature of the wick becomes hot enough to force the reaction. The only time this can happen is during dry puffs.

Since dry puffs taste horrible, us vapers avoid them at all costs, thus avoiding the chemical reaction that produces formaldehyde or other aldehydes.

There is always a tiny amount of formaldehyde and other aldehydes in e-juice as it’s heated, even without dry puffing, but it’s such a minute amount that it is not considered a danger. The studies claiming e-cigs contain 10-15 time more carcinogens than cigarettes are only referring to formaldehyde (not the other dangerous chemicals in cigarettes) and are basing their conclusions on the results that could only be obtained through dry puffing, which is not something that would be happening in real life.

Studies that don’t rely on dry puffing have also shown that the formaldehyde levels in e-cigarettes as 9-400 times lower than the levels in cigarettes.

As a vaper, should you be worried about formaldehyde? If you are using vaping as an alternative to smoking, then you’ve actually decreased your exposure to formaldehyde. By taking the evidence from the studies and factoring in dry puffs, when comparing the levels of formaldehyde to different workplace limits, vapers fit well within the safety range.

In short, ignore sensationalist headlines like “Vaping can kill!” Studies cannot conclude that the minute level of formaldehyde inhaled during vaping when not dry puffing is at a harmful level. If you’re particularly concerned, then choose a temperature-controlled e-cig that completely eliminates the possibility of dry puffs.

For a detailed study looking at all the facts and studies, check out the E-Cigarette Reviewed blog. Have a look at one study showing how vaping is helping smokers quit, and get your hands on the latest e-cigarette gear in NZ at NZVAPOR.

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