Particulate Metals and Organic Compounds from Electronic and Tobaccocontaining Cigarettes: Comparison of Emission Rates and Secondhand Exposure

Particulate metals and organic compounds from electronic and tobacco-containing cigarettes: comparison of emission rates and secondhand exposure

Published: 22 August 2014

Positive: No

Link to publication:!divAbstract


Arian Saffari, Nancy Daher, Ario Ruprecht, Cinzia De Marco, Paolo Pozzi, Roberto Boffi, Samera H. Hamad, Martin M. Shafer, James J. Schauer, Dane Westerdahle and Constantinos Sioutas


In recent years, electronic cigarettes have gained increasing popularity as alternatives to normal (tobacco-containing) cigarettes. In the present study, particles generated by e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes have been analyzed and the degree of exposure to different chemical agents and their emission rates were quantified. Despite the 10-fold decrease in the total exposure to particulate elements in e-cigarettes compared to normal cigarettes, specific metals (e.g. Ni and Ag) still displayed a higher emission rate from e-cigarettes. Further analysis indicated that the contribution of e-liquid to the emission of these metals is rather minimal, implying that they likely originate from other components of the e-cigarette device or other indoor sources. Organic species had lower emission rates during e-cigarette consumption compared to normal cigarettes. Of particular note was the non-detectable emission of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from e-cigarettes, while substantial emission of these species was observed from normal cigarettes. Overall, with the exception of Ni, Zn, and Ag, the consumption of e-cigarettes resulted in a remarkable decrease in secondhand exposure to all metals and organic compounds. Implementing quality control protocols on the manufacture of e-cigarettes would further minimize the emission of metals from these devices and improve their safety and associated health effects.


Analysis of secondhand emissions from a popular and widely-used e-cigarette brand indicated a very large reduction of particle-phase emissions compared to normal tobacco-containing cigarettes in a real-life setting. BC and particle-phase PAHs, deleterious chemical species present in high concentrations in tobacco smoke, were not detected in e-cigarette’s aerosol. Emission rates of organic compounds (including alkanes and organic acids) as well as total emission of inorganic elements and metals were also significantly reduced (more than100 times for organics and 10 times for elements) in e-cigarettes compared to normal cigarettes. Analysis of elemental emissions indicated the presence of toxic metals (such as Ni, Zn and Ag) in e-cigarette’s aerosol, with Ni and Ag having higher indoor emission rates compared to normal cigarettes. Moreover,analysis of nicotine indicated that secondhand particle-phase nicotine accounted for about 0.02% of the total nicotine generation and emission during e-cigarette vaping. Based on our results, use of e-cigarettes from a public health perspective appears to be an improvement compared to normal tobacco-containing cigarettes, as exposure to most of the toxic and/or undesirable chemical species was found to be much lower than that for normal cigarettes. However, considering the lack of regulation on the manufacturing process of e-cigarettes, there appears to be a potential for utilization of toxic material (such as metals) in e-cigarettes, which could lead to their emission in e-cigarette’s vapor and aerosol.1,13Implementing quality control regulations on the design and manufacturing process of e-cigarettes is therefore necessary to prevent potential utilization of non-desirable material in e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

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