A recent study done by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has raised concerns about the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes. In a study published in December 2015, researchers stated that they found traces of a potentially dangerous chemical called diacetyl in 75% of all e-cigarettes and their refill liquids.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, a number of workers in manufacturing plants that dealt with food additives began to show signs of obliterative bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the lungs. A large amount of the cases were discovered in workers in microwave popcorn plants, which eventually lead to the condition known as “popcorn lung.” A chemical named diacetyl, a flavoring agent used to give microwave popcorn its buttery taste, was linked to the disease.
In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health officially linked bronchiolitis to former workers of microwave popcorn plants.
Absent exposure to industrial inhalants, obliterative bronchiolitis is a rare disease, which is irreversible, and highly lethal. The five-year survival rate for patients who do not receive a lung transplant is less than 50%. Therefore, the recent study done by researchers at Harvard has raised concerns about e-cigarettes, which are currently not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Given that e-cigarettes have been heralded by many as a safer alternative to cigarettes, the fact that they contain a highly-dangerous chemical could lead to new claims of obliterative bronchiolitis from individuals who have suffered injury due to e-cigarettes.
Unlike the cases involving popcorn lung, when there was a lack of information involving the risks of diacetyl exposure, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes and their refills should know and understand the risks involved. The question then remains, why would they even take a chance in using this chemical?
Many have chosen to use e-cigarettes for health reasons, and thus, they should be informed of all health risks, including the link between diacetyl an obliterative bronchiolitis.
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