Formaldehyde is a word which can inspire fear in the bravest of souls, on par with "card declined", "mother-in-law" and “tell the group three fun facts about yourself”. Shudder.
Whilst some may run a mile when they hear the F-word, others might not have a clue what it means. So, what the puff is formaldehyde? Is it harmful? And, most importantly, is it in my e-liquid? Keep reading, concerned vapers – like the tip of an e-cig, we’re here to pass you the glowing light of truth! (Well, what we know so far anyway).
Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound: a colourless, pungent-smelling gaseous substance. It can be used for a range of purposes, including in manufacturing building materials like plywood, as an ingredient in glue and as a steriliser.
So what’s everyone so scared of?
Run, Hide, It's Formaldehyde!
The National Toxicology Program in the U.S. classified in the "11th Report on Carcinogens" that formaldehyde is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue - so yep, formaldehyde is sufficiently scary stuff.
It’s one of the thousands of chemicals located in cigarette smoke – just one of the carcinogens that causes cancer in smokers.
So we’ve established that formaldehyde is something best avoided. But how does this relate to vaping liquid?
Well, in 2015 a medical journal reported that e-cigarettes also expose users to formaldehyde. The study didn’t just claim that e-cigs released as much formaldehyde as traditional cigarettes, but that they could release over ten times the amount. If true, this would render invalid any argument that vaping was a healthier alternative to smoking.
But before you put down the vape and go back to puffing on your analogue, there’s more to the study than what’s on the surface.
Blowing Off Steam
Since the publication of this report, multiple researchers have called for its retraction. Dr. Farsalinos, a cardiologist who has performed research on electronic cigarettes since 2011, also published a paper disputing these claims, stating there were “many major issues in that study.”
His main point was that in order to achieve the voltage necessary to reach the levels of formaldehyde discovered in the study, you would have to overheat your atomiser, burn your coils and then vape repeatedly. E-cigarette users do not vape on an overheated coil as this makes it difficult to get a “hit” and will have an unpleasant burnt taste.
Therefore, normal vaping would not expose users to the formaldehyde discovered in the report.
Dr. Farsalinos compared the study to someone finding carcinogens in an overcooked piece of meat that no one would ever eat, and then claiming all meat was carcinogenic as a result – “of course the findings are true, but no-one will be exposed to the levels found.”
None the Wiser
As with many debates surrounding the contents of e-juice, it always comes down to the fact that long-term research into the effects of vaping is limited. Whether you’re for or against vaping, it’s still a relatively new invention and, as such, we can dispute and discuss all we like: we’re still none the wiser.
It’s important to stay aware of what we do know and use this to make your own, carefully considered decision as to whether vaping is right for you.
If you want to give it a go, check out some of the starter kits available at Vape Mountain now!