Japanese Study Raises Alarm that Ecigs Might Contain Formaldehyde
This week, the media is ablaze with new accusations that electronic cigarettes could actually be more harmful than their tobacco counterparts. Japan’s Health Ministry commissioned a group of researchers to study ecig vapor and this week, they released the findings, claiming that ecigs contain more than 10 times the level of carcinogens as tobacco cigarettes. But how can that be true when we have been told over and over that ecigs are a safer choice than tobacco?
While Japan is keeping the actual details of the study under lock and key, a few small details were released to the media and that is what set off this massive doom storm among vape haters. Researcher Naoki Kunugita said, “In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette.” Based on the mainstream media’s report, all ecigs are now nothing more than cancer-laden devices, but in reality that’s not the case.
In search for a true scientific look at the this study, we turned to Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a well respected researcher that has been closely following ecig research and conducting his own studies for several years. His take on this new study is actually very enlightening. He points out that media reports are mostly fixated on formaldehyde, which was found in only one unknown ecig brand. He said the media hype is highly misleading considering formaldehyde levels were only higher than tobacco cigarettes in one single ecig brand tested.
Dr. Farsalinos actually contacted Professor Kunugita to have a dialogue about the recent study in hopes of better understanding the conclusions. The Japanese researcher said they drew conclusions from a whole list of previous studies and analyzed 13 Japanese brands. He also provided detailed data to Farsalinos, which he dissected and compared to previous research. When he looked at the actual carcinogenic levels found in the Japanese brands, it was clear that the media has latched onto nothing more than hype. A Canadian study in 2008 evaluated formaldehyde levels in cigarette smoke. Comparatively speaking, cigarettes had 6 times higher levels than even the highest value found in e-cig vapor in the Japanese study.
Farsalinos said the truth is actually clear when you look at the data. “Even in the worst-case Japanese product, e-cigarette aerosol contained 6 times lower formaldehyde levels compared to tobacco cigarette smoke,” he explained. “The average levels of formaldehyde found in all samples was calculated at 4.2μg per 10 puffs. Therefore, on average, the levels of formaldehyde in e-cigarettes are up to 50 times lower compared to tobacco cigarette smoke.”
He went on to point out that the study is misleading in many respects. “Even if e-cigarettes contained similar, or higher, levels of formaldehyde, they do not contain the majority of other toxic and carcinogenic substances present in cigarette smoke. Overall, the residual risk from e-cigarette use is orders of magnitude lower than smoking. This is exactly what smokers need (and deserve) to know.”
Furthermore, Farsalinos reveals that the media is only reporting on one isolated brand with extremely high levels of formaldehyde. He said this particular brand wasn’t even included in the published results because it was a single case and something could have been wrong that excluded it from the rest of the trials. It’s possible that the vapor was produced in a malfunctioning device, at too high power levels, or extremely low levels of liquid inside.
Ultimately, we should all take this Japanese study with a grain of salt. There is much more substantial peer-reviewed research available that proves e-cigs are far safer than tobacco cigarettes and have been repeatedly successful when used for smoking cessation purposes.