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March 17, 2017

High Levels of Benzene Found in E-Cigarettes

An electronic cigarette or more commonly known as an “e-cigarette” is a device that vaporizes a flavored liquid typically made up of nicotine, glycerine, and propylene glycol. The fluid inside this pen-looking device is heated, creating vapor. Vapor is inhaled rather than smoke and many use the term “vaping” when referring to using an e-cigarette.

E-cigarettes date back to the 1960s, but since smoking regular cigarettes was still fashionable, the device received little attention. As time passed and society became more aware of the adverse health effects associated with smoking, nicotine, and tobacco, demand for e-cigarettes grew. The more modern e-cigarette that we know today was invented around 2003, hitting the global market a year later. There are many reasons why a person may choose to use e-cigarettes. With the price of tobacco continually on the rise, the e-cigarette is a more cost-effective option for smokers.  It’s thought to have less harmful chemicals and some use it as a tool to help cut down or quit smoking in general.

A recent study out of Portland State University out of Portland, Oregon has found significant levels of benzene in e-cigarettes when the e-cigarettes are operated at a high power. It was found that if the fluid added in the e-cigarette contained benzoic acid or benzaldehyde, and it was operated at a high level of power, benzene levels were 1,000 times higher in the surrounding air. The benzene level from e-cigarettes is still lower than the levels from regular cigarettes, but any amount in what is supposed to be a “safer” alternative to cigarettes is alarming.

Benzene is a liquid chemical compound that is colorless, flammable, and has a sweet odor to it. It’s a compound that is produced naturally – found in volcanos, forest fires, and gasoline and evaporates when exposed to air. In the United States, benzene is used as a starting material in the making of plastics, rubbers, dyes, and pesticides. While benzene can be very useful, it is also a known carcinogen, and may cause several forms of cancer, including acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML. Short-term effects include skin irritation, nausea, and anemia.

Those who are exposed to benzene can be exposed by gases or vapors in the air, or by contaminated water. Benzene, when it gets into your system, attacks your cells, causing them to malfunction. Benzene also oxidizes in your body, which can cause mutations on DNA stands. It prevents the bone marrow from making enough red blood cells and changes the levels of antibodies to the point of losing white blood cells. With both short- and long-term effects, benzene poisoning can have different results depending on an individual’s exposure levels and medical histories.

Toxic exposure to benzene can have devastating consequences on both the victim and their family. If you or a loved one has been affected by benzene poisoning, please contact one of our toxic tort attorneys today. Our benzene lawyers have helped many people negligently exposed and harmed by these toxic fumes.

Source:

James F. Pankow, Kilsun Kim, Kevin J. McWhirter, Wentai Luo, Jorge O. Escobedo, Robert M. Strongin, Anna K. Duell, David H. Peyton, “Benzene formation in electronic cigarettes,” PLOS ONE ( March 8, 2017). [Link]

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