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Vaping and e-liquid flavors do not damage lung surfactant, says new study

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Scientists have known for quite some time that the vapor from e-cigs is significantly less toxic than the second-hand smoke from traditional cigarettes. Even so, many public health agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) argue that more research is needed before an official endorsement can occur.

Researchers from Ohio University are releasing the findings of a new study which indicates vaping has no negative effects on the surfactant lining of the lungs. Lung surfactant is a thin coating of mucus-like material that essentially absorbs the surface tension on the lungs caused by the alveolar fluid. Without this surfactant tissue, even ordinary breathing would be much more laborious. For patients suffering from respiratory ailments such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma, the results might even be deadly.

Ohio University ‘calf lung’ vaping study

The study led by Dr. Rebecca J. Przybyla is entitled Electronic cigarette vapor alters the lateral structure but not tensiometric properties of calf lung surfactant and published in the medical journal BMC Respiratory Research. The researchers opted to use the lung surfactant of calf lungs to begin their experimentation. After spready the gooey substance across a measuring device called a Langmuir trough, they then exposed the lung surfactant to both e-cig vapor and second-hand smoke.After a series of multiple tests under carefully-controlled laboratory conditions and involving multiple e-liquids of different flavor combinations, the Pryzbyla team determined that vaping causes no measurable damage to pulmonary surfactant.

“E-cigarette vapor regardless of the dose and flavoring of the e-liquid did not affect surfactant interfacial properties. In contrast, smoke from conventional cigarettes had a drastic, dose-dependent effect on Infasurf®interfacial properties reducing the maximum surface pressure from 65.1 ± 0.2 mN/m to 46.1 ± 1.3 mN/m at the highest dose. Cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor both altered surfactant microstructure resulting in an increase in the area of lipid multilayers. Studies with individual smoke components revealed that tar was the smoke component most disruptive to surfactant function.”

These findings are significant to the vaping community for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the data proves that vaping is safe for the respiratory system compared to smoking which produces immediate damaging consequences. Secondly, it is the first major study of its kind to experiment with multiple flavoring profiles of e-liquids.

There are hundreds of metropolitan areas within the United States which are currently considering or attempting to pass local ordinances banning the sales of flavored e-liquids based on the assumption that they are either more toxic, more kid-friendly, or both. The Ohio University study seems to indicate that the debate over increased toxicity can now be laid to rest.  

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