Vaping could expose users to toxic metals, study finds

New research suggests that vaping could be exposing users to toxic metals like uranium and lead, impacting brain and organ development.

In addition, the risk of toxic metal exposure could be greater for teenagers who vape. This is because higher levels of metal exposure were found in those who use sweet-flavoured vapes which are typically marketed towards young people.

Published in Tobacco Control, the research sought to identify how vaping frequency and flavour links to toxic metal levels.

Researchers analysed the urine samples of 200 people from 13 to 17 year olds for the presence of cadmium, lead and uranium. The study found that frequent vape users had ‘significantly higher’ levels of toxic metals present in their urine, including 40% more lead and twice the amount of uranium.

In addition, uranium levels were 90% higher in those who use sweet-flavoured vapes compared to menthol or mint.

As a result, the researchers have stressed the need for regulations on vaping to safeguard young people against both addiction exposure to toxic metals.

‘E-cigarettes are not risk free’

Dr Lion Shahab IS professor of health psychology at University College London (UCL), and co-director of the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group.

Commenting on the study, he said: ‘This is a well-conducted study underscoring the need to carefully monitor exposure in e-cigarette users and highlights the fact that e-cigarettes are not risk free

‘However, these findings also need to be seen in context,. Uranium specifically has many different important sources of exposure (including food, water connected to geographic location), which were not controlled for in this analysis.’

He added: ‘Nonetheless, it is important to note that no level of lead exposure is safe.

‘Given that heavy metal exposure is mostly driven by the type of device used, future studies should investigate whether there are any meaningful differences between different e-cigarette types to inform regulators, eg to curtail use of devices that expose users to more heavy metals.’

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