Chemicals in flavoured vapes could be very toxic when heated – study

Chemicals in flavoured vapes could be highly toxic when heated, new research suggests.

The study found that 505 hazardous chemicals, including 127 which are acutely toxic, and 153 health hazards, are formed as a result of vaping.

Researchers used AI to simulate the effects of heating chemicals found in 180 vape flavours.

The scientists suggest their approach may help to reveal the longer-term health risks of vaping in advance of clinical diseases emerging in the general population.

Liquid flavouring in e-cigarettes is heated to high temperatures, so that it forms vapour which is then inhaled.

The original source for the flavourings comes from the food industry, where they are safe, but they were not intended to be heated to high temperatures and inhaled, the study suggests.

Study authors Donal O’Shea, and Dan Wu, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and Akihiro Kishimoto from 1 IBM Research – Tokyo, Japan, wrote: “The aerosols produced by e-cigarette vaping contain immensely complex uncharacterised mixtures of pyrolysis products, the health implications of which are, as yet, mostly unidentified.

“In advance of health effects of vaping becoming apparent in the general population, AI can be exploited to give guidance to the public, policy makers and health care professionals.

They added: “As vaping is a new and unprecedented stress to the human body, with the ability to generate pyrolysis products more toxic that their parent compounds, it seems prudent to strictly limit the number of chemical entities in e-liquids.”

Jacob George, professor of cardiovascular medicine and therapeutics, University of Dundee – who was not involved in the study, said: “There are close to 40,000 different flavours in the market worldwide today and making sense of their effects will require a combination of techniques including automated mapping algorithms and creation of neural networks such as this.

“While this study cannot give us definitive answers of the risks of flavoured vapes on human health, this study may be a helpful early step to identifying signals that could then lead to further, more in depth research into heat-induced breakdown of chemicals used in flavourings.

“This study has combined artificial intelligence with previously known published information to predict that when heating a combination of chemicals in flavoured vapes there might result in a harmful toxicant being produced, and these predictions can then be tested with further studies.

“There is, as yet, very little good-quality evidence of either safety or harm of these flavourings and so I welcome novel strategies as employed by these researchers.”

The findings are published in the Scientific Reports journal.