According to research by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, popular e-cigarettes have bacterial and fungal toxins.
Seventy-five e-cigarettes were tested and 27 percent had endotoxin traces, and 81 percent had traces of glucan, which is found in most fungi. These microbes can cause lung problems from inflammation to asthma. The study was published in the April 24 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.
“Airborne Gram-negative bacterial endotoxin and fungal-derived glucans have been shown to cause acute and chronic respiratory effects in occupational and environmental settings,” said David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics and senior author of the study. "Finding these toxins in e-cigarette products adds to the growing concerns about the potential for adverse respiratory effects in users."
The single use cartridge samples had 3.2 times higher glucan concentrations than the e-liquid samples. One drawback of the study is that it is impossible to detect when in the process the contamination occurred, and the contamination could have been from the cotton wicks used in the study.
“In addition to inhaling harmful chemicals, e-cig users could also be exposed to biological contaminants like endotoxin and glucan,” said Mi-Sun Lee, research fellow and lead author of the paper. “These new findings should be considered when developing regulatory policies for e-cigarettes.”
E-cigarette use has steadily increased in the last few years, especially among high school students. In 2018, it is estimated that three million students used e-cigarettes, up from 220,000 in 2011.