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Feces, Pesticides and Nicotine Found in ‘Nicotine-Free’ E-Cigarettes

Are e-cigarette liquid manufacturers outright lying about what’s in their products?

A new report published Sunday in the Medical Journal of Australia found traces of pesticides, human or animal excrement and nicotine in popular nicotine-free brands of e-cigarettes sold in Australia.

Researchers analyzed the content of ten varieties of e-cigarettes sold both online and over the counter in Australia, where it is illegal to sell nicotine-containing e-liquids. To the researchers’ surprise, six of the samples tested positive for nicotine.

According to the study’s authors, three of the nicotine positive samples reported levels of nicotine comparable to “low-dose nicotine” e-cigarettes. The three other positive samples reported trace amounts of nicotine.

The samples also contained a substance known as 2-chlorophenol, a toxic chemical found in insecticides and disinfectants.

Lead researcher and Associate Professor Alex Larcombe told ABC Australia he was “surprised” by the discovery of 2-chlorophenol, a known respiratory and dermal irritant.

“It was only in there in small amounts, but it was found in all of the liquids that we looked at,” Larcombe said.

“We also found other things — by-products of animal or human bodily functions — which indicates the process of making the e-liquids might not be as clean as you might hope.”

In Australia, although nicotine is illegal in e-liquids or e-cigarettes, last year health inspectors from the New South Wales Department of Health visited 227 retailers and found 63 percent of e-liquids labeled nicotine-free actually contained nicotine.

In the US, nicotine in e-cigarettes is legal but only for adults aged 18 or older. Despite the age-restriction, the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers has exploded in recent years, alarming health officials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018 4.9 percent of middle school students and 20.8 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes at least once in the last 30 days. Whereas in 2017, only 2.8 percent of adults reported use of e-cigarettes.

The explosion of e-cigarette use is in part believed to be due to a perception that e-cigarettes are healthier than traditional tobacco smoke. While e-cigarettes do not contain nearly as many as the 7000 toxic ingredients in traditional cigarettes, nicotine, delivered in any form, is especially harmful to the adolescent brain which continues developing into the early to mid-20s. Besides nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol also can contain cancer-causing substances like lead and volatile organic compounds that are delivered deep into the lungs.

E-cigarettes have been beneficial for some smokers and have helped them ween off of cigarettes all together or at least switched to a less toxic product. However, others caution the real and long-term effects of e-cigarettes will not be known for decades.


Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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