Dr. Farsalinos along with Dr. Gene Gillman looked at 32 different studies that dealt with harmful substances potentially found in e-liquid vapor
The world-renowned tobacco control expert, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, has made a name for himself by replicating and rebuking vaping studies that claim to prove excessive harm. His latest review took a look at 32 vaping studies, all concerned with very high levels of harmful substances like formaldehyde. Dr. Farsalinos, along with a colleague, Dr. Gene Gillman wanted to understand if there were any commonalities between all of these studies; Especially the research that had produced the most headline-making results. After all, one of the most common concerns about vaping is the contents of the vapor and how long-term usage impacts human health.
Most of the public concern over formaldehyde can be traced back to a single paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 2015 regarding alleged extremely high formaldehyde content in e-cigarette vapor. The news quickly made headlines all over the world, claiming that vaping has been proven to be even more dangerous than smoking. So even though this particular study was rebuked promptly by countless researchers and vapers who cited the unrealistic research design as a more likely reason for the abnormally high formaldehyde numbers, the damage had already been done.
The report starting by going over the methodology and parameters used in each vaping study. This included noting the method used to produce vapor, the contents of the vapor itself, and the results provided. Right away they acknowledged that these parameters would vary greatly depending on several variables, including which device you’re using and how long your puffs last. Dr. Farsalinos and Dr. Gillman noted that in the studies analyzed, the length of puffs ranged from under two seconds to over eight seconds, while the breaks between puffs could last as long as a minute or be only ten seconds. This doesn’t even begin to mention the differences in vaporizers themselves or the contents of the different e-liquids used for research. You can imagine how this variety of variables can quickly complicate things and make it harder to set a standard between various studies using different setups.
Dr. Farsalinos and Dr. Gillman identified dry burning coils as the most likely culprit of the extremely high formaldehyde content. In light of this, the provided four recommendations for researchers to avoid these issues altogether in the future. First and foremost they believe that the puffing regime needs to follow basic guidelines. They think that between 40-70 ml puffs, for between two and four seconds, with 30-second gaps between as the best starting place for researchers looking to test real-world conditions.
The next most likely to produce such shocking results is the power settings and atomizer used. A common issue with researchers seems to be believing that any atomizer can fill the role needed. This is simply not the case, as any vaper will tell you. Not only is the technology improving all the time, but different atomizers produce different results based on how, and with what, they’re built. Dr. Gillman referenced his own replication study that took five different atomizers and showed that even with the same settings and e-liquids, the results could vary dramatically.
Another potential culprit of the skewed results is the e-liquid content and viscosity. Although most e-liquids are only made of the same three or four ingredients, the ratios at which they’re mixed can have a significant impact on the results of testing. High viscosity liquids have a harder time saturating the wicking material, and as a result, can lead to dry puffs.
The last recommendation provided by the duo of doctors could potentially be the most impactful, that is using an optimal temperature. According to two separate studies that looked into the emissions of e-cigarettes at different temperatures, there is a significant increase in harmful substance levels around 570 or 660 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the study). While the research is still out whether or not temperature makes a significant difference, it seems somewhat likely that overdoing it on the heat can have some severe repercussions.
Cause For Concern?
The bottom line for vapers is that while the science is still far from confirmed, the evidence is clear that research finding abnormally high levels of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde are particularly subject to poor research design. Studies that have used modern atomizers and accounted for common pitfalls have always found formaldehyde levels to be extremely low.
In fact, according to Dr. Farsalinos, vaping 5ml of e-liquid every day only adds around .083 mg of formaldehyde to your system. Compared with an estimated 1 mg that is naturally ingested via natural air sources, and the relative risk becomes apparent. If these results prove right, in the long run, it should be able to finally end concerns over formaldehyde content in e-cigarettes once and for all.
Do you think poor research method like that noted by Dr. Farsalinos is more likely accidental or on purpose? How can we discredit poorly designed research? Do you think that more replication studies like this are the key to ending the misunderstanding of vaping, and if not then what do you think would work? Let us know in the comments.