E-cigarette: Some Liquids In Australia Found To Contain Nicotine, Other Harmful Ingredients

E-cigarette
(Photo: Flickr/E-cig Twigg)

Researchers in Australia have discovered that some nicotine-free e-cigarette liquids contain nicotine, an addictive agent found in traditional cigarettes. The research team tested 10 different types of nicotine-free e-liquids and found six of them indeed contain the compound, as well as other potentially harmful ingredients.

The e-cigarette liquids were purchased online and over the counter from some Australian suppliers. Aside from nicotine, the samples were also found to contain a substance called 2-chlorophenol - a chemical compound usually found in disinfectants and insecticides, the ABC News reported.

Alex Larcombe, the lead researcher from the Telethon Kids Institute, said their findings pointed out the risk of "little to no regulation" of e-cigarette products in Australia. The country bans the sale of liquid nicotine, so vaping stores are reportedly prohibited e-cigarette devices, as well as nicotine-free e-liquids.

The nicotine found in three e-liquids was at levels similar to those identified in low-dose nicotine e-liquids, while other potentially harmful ingredients were identified as well, according to the research was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Larcombe said he was surprised 2-chlorophenol was found on the samples since the substance is known to be a respiratory and dermal irritant. He added that although it was only present in small amounts, the compound is present in all e-liquids they've tested.

Researchers also found other things, including by-products of animal or human bodily functions. That means the process of making the e-liquids were not clean at all. Moreover, the samples also have "relatively benign" chemicals used in detergents and soaps.

Larcombe explained most of these are food additives qualified as "safe to eat," but it's unknown what the heating process does to the chemical composition of these ingredients - particularly when breathed into the lungs.

Nicotine is classified as a "schedule 7 dangerous poison" in Australia, with some exemptions made for certain nicotine replacement therapies. Just last year, health inspectors from the New South Wales Department of Health checked 227 retailers and found that 63 percent of e-liquids labeled "nicotine-free" actually have nicotine. Lack of regulation and mislabeling is a major concern, especially among young people.

"The labels are definitely misleading, and these products should certainly be legalized and regulated," said Colin Mendelsohn, associate professor of public health at the University of New South Wales. But, he also noted that the discovery of other potentially harmful chemicals was "not in itself a concern." He added chemicals are everywhere and we are exposed to them every day, so the danger depends on the level of the chemical and the toxicity of that particular chemical.

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