1942 Study Uncovers Incredible Health Benefits of Inhaled Propylene Glycol

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As the world argues about the safety of electronic cigarettes, it’s clear that we need to place a greater emphasis on scientific research. Interestingly, there have been studies done prior to the birth of ecigs that give us a clue as to how vaping impacts the human body. A perfect example of this is a study conducted by Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson of the University of Chicago’s Billings Hospital in 1942. Dr. Robertson studied how the inhalation of propylene glycol impacted laboratory mice.

Propylene glycol is one of the primary ingredients in e-liquid, but even before it was used to make electronic cigarettes, Dr. Robertson was testing its effects by inhalation. He suspected that this powerful ingredient could potentially be helpful for treating respiratory diseases, influenza, and even pneumonia.

To test his theory, he placed groups of mice into two chambers. In the first chamber, he sprayed the air with propylene glycol and then the flu virus. In the second chamber, he sprayed only the flu virus. Surprisingly, all of the mice in the chamber sprayed with propylene glycol survived, whereas the mice exposed only to the flu virus died.

Dr. Robertson concluded, “The propylene glycol itself was a potent germicide. One part of glycol in 2,000,000 parts of air would – within a few seconds – kill concentrations of air-suspended pneumococci, streptococci, and other bacteria numbering millions to the cubic foot.”

So what is this powerful substance known as propylene glycol? It is essentially a synthetic liquid that absorbs water. Today, we use PG in many cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products. It is also used in fog machines and even to generate smoke for fire fighter trainings. The FDA classifies PG as a food and drug additive that is “generally recognized as safe”. It is clear, colorless, and has no taste or odor.

Electronic cigarettes utilize propylene glycol in the e-liquid. When it heats up, it turns into a vapor that the smoker inhales. Looking back at Dr. Robertson’s study from 1942, we see that PG might offer benefits apart from just smoking cessation. It seems that PG could even help keep us healthy and protect against the spread of viruses like the flu.

Dustin has been vaping for almost a decade. He found e-cigarettes in 2008 and quickly became drawn to them as an early adopter. He's been writing reviews ever since and has established himself as a well-versed authority on the subject.

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8 Responses

  1. Nicki says:

    Many vapers, myself included, report not having had a cold or chest infection since we’ve been vaping and asthmatics report no longer needing, or drastically reducing, use of their inhalers. I used to have terrible colds, lasting weeks and am happy to say that in the two years and four months I’ve been vaping, I haven’t had so much as a sniffle. Nicotine is also anti-bacterial and I recently read a study that reported its ability to kill TB. Yet more areas where pharma drugs won’t be needed and they hate that!

    • Joe says:

      I have had asthma for 15 years and have been constantly plagued with upper respiratory infections every since being diagnosed. For the last 1.5 years I’ve been vaping, pretty heavily, and have noticed a drastic reduction in my wheezing and URI frequency at the cost of increased throat irritation. I’ve only had to use a rescue inhaler twice in the last year so this seems like a good tradeoff for me. I haven’t used a peak flow meter in a while but I would bet I have increased lung function.

  2. NateDogg says:

    There is a report or study out there somewhere that talks about this and also states that this is why Hospitals pump vaporized PG through the ventilation systems of the hospitals. Its been about 5+ or so years since I saw or read that one though.

  3. Joshua Salles says:

    Well, I hope they do another study like this as it pertains to us vapers in the future but as previously mentioned it seems like we’re already noticing the effects.

    Viva la vaping revolution!

  4. j says:

    Totally random. My cat has feline asthma… He gets phlegmy and will try to hack it out. Luckily he never had fluid in his lungs.

    I never smoked in the house.

    I started vaping, only outdoors, as to not irritate him. When it got brutally cold, I went indoors once in a while. In the bathroom with the fan on. Once in a while in the kitchen with the range hood fan on.

    The cat hasn’t coughed once since I started vaping indoors once or twice a day. It’s been over six months now since he last coughed. Previously, he would cough two or three times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it was an ongoing thing. He is not on any meds at this point, and is doing great.

    Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. When I quit vaping, if he starts coughing again, I’ll start vaping again.

  5. Mark says:

    Its interesting that until I read this article it never dawned on me that I haven’t had a really bad cold, I did get the flu this year, don’t know what strain, but it wasn’t as bad as I’ve had it in the past. Last time was 10-12 yrs ago and I was sick for 2 weeks. Missed Christmas and New Years that year, but not since. I’ve only been vaping about 3 years, June will mark 3 years as a vaper. Interesting to note I had to have my spleen removed back in the late 80s which as most know your spleen acts as a filter, without one your immune system is compromised, which mine is. Used to get everything that came along, now….not so much, even less since my vaping became my substitute for snuff, dip, smokeless tobacco. Cigarettes I haven’t touched in over 20 years, really wish there were ecigarettes back then, it would have been so much easier to quit.
    It is no secret that when you get the nebulizer treatments that one of the main ingredients is PG, our son used to get URIs all the time when he was a kid, not so much, hell he hardly ever gets sick at all now. Maybe all those nebulizer treatments had a prolonged effect….who knows….could be.

  6. Eric P says:

    Full disclosure: I am an avid vaper. I quit smoking, using an e-cig, and never looked back. I personally don’t believe that vaping is bad for you. Or, better said, I am convinced that vaping is FAR less harmful than cigarettes. I base this on my experience that I no longer cough, I can breath better, and I experience nearly all of the positives of a smoke free person including improved sense of smell and taste. So you don’t need to convince me, personally, about positive vaping.

    I was aware of the very old study that suggested airborne bacteria could be reduced by Propylene Glycol. Propylene Glycol is a synthetic product that begins by oxidizing Propylene with organic hydrogen peroxide to create Propylene Oxide. From there, it is then hydrolyzed into Propylene Glycol.

    Propylene Glycol (PG) is generally accepted to be safe by the FDA. It is a food additive, it is used in medical products, etc. Most of us people who vape definitely know this. What I wonder is this: PG is considered safe because it is added in liquid form to many food products to keep them moist. PG is very hygroscopic (it easily attracts water and moisture). Does anything happen or change to PG when it is rapidly boiled, rapidly changing from liquid phase to vapor phase? This is essentially what is happening in 99% of the e-cig vaporizers.

    If PG has a major affinity to water, what – if any – risk is there in your lungs? Is there such a thing as too much water? (apart from the obvious drowning scenario) Does this pose any risk to the cilia in the lungs?

    I’m not stopping my vaping because it helped me completely stop smoking cigarettes. But, I am cautious about all this “Good News” about vaping. After all these years I have learned one thing: If it seems too good to be true… it very likely is.

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