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Portland State vaping study: Benzene levels in e-cig vapor ‘non-detectable’

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The Europeans may be the world leaders of vaping science, but American academia like Portland State University (PSU) is beginning to close the gap. In a new study recently published in the medical journal PLOS on March 8, 2017, a team of PSU scientists concludes that the vapor derived from standard-issue vaping technology and electronic cigarettes contains no significant levels of cancer-causing benzene.

Benzene is a toxic chemical commonly found in such dangerous substances as furniture wax, industrial solvents, paint and paint thinners, varnish removers, inks, and even gasoline. Unfortunately, it is also one of those nasty chemicals that anti-tobacco lobbyists often falsely claim is also found in e-cig vapor. Thanks to the recent PSU research study entitled Benzene formation in electronic cigarettes,” the vaping industry now has proof-positive that the exact opposite is true.

Heat manipulation and Benzene levels

Of course, it would be unprofessional to state that these types of anti-vaping activists are outright lying about benzene and e-cig vapor. And in fact, the PSU study addresses this very issue in a rather unique way.

According to the report, the scientists manipulated their benzene data by experimenting with the vaping wattages. The study involved a sample group of vaping volunteers monitored under the below conditions.

  • The vapers were each given the same 6ml nicotine concentration e-liquid.
  • The vaping devices were first set to 6 Watts.
  • The volunteers were asked to take short, 5-second vapes from the device.
  • At 6 Watts, the levels of benzene in the related vapor were non-detectable.
  • The scientists then increased the wattage to 13W where approximately 24 μg/g of the chemical was documented.
  • As they applied more heat, the benzene levels simply kept rising.

But who would vape their e-liquids as such high wattages? The e-liquids would taste absolutely awful, and the dry hit effect would be extremely unappealing. At least one European scientist points out some other interesting conclusions based upon the recent PSU study.

“The authors calculated the concentration of benzene in inhaled air, and report levels up to 5000 μg/m3 air (at dry puffs of course). Compared to the ambient levels of 1 μg/m3 of benzene, everyone would think that this is a disaster.”

“But not really, this methodology suffers from a major problem. Humans take about 12 breaths per minute, i.e. 17,000 (thousand) breaths per 24 h. The volume of air inhaled in 24 h is 20 m3. So, the daily exposure to benzene from ambient air is 20 μg. Even if you assume that Subtank at 25 W with 5-second puffs represent realistic conditions (they are not), you need to consume 105 mL e-liquid per day in order to be exposed to the same levels of benzene as breathing ambient air. For the EVOD under normal vaping conditions, you need to vape 125 mL e-liquid per day.”

-Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, University of Patras in Greece

Farsalinos points out that, at first glance, the PSU study might appear to demonize vaping technology as a resource for toxic benzene. It is only after digging deep into the fine print of the study that the reader can locate the scientific data that truly matters.

Buried deep within the closing paragraph, the scientists make the following assertion. The levels of benzene produced by e-cigarettes at normal temperatures are of the same levels found in normal, everyday, ambient air. 

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