Since vaping was first introduced in 2003, some people have spoken out against the industry arguing that the ingredients used in e-liquids produce harmful chemicals at unknown levels when vaped. Reacting to those claims, researchers have set out to determine what chemicals are produced when e-liquids have been heated to their boiling point. More specifically, a study done at Portland State University looked at the prevalence of Benzene in vapor clouds.

What is Benzene?

Benzene is a known human carcinogen that can be produced by heating certain e-liquid ingredients. Currently, benzene is the single most dangerous carcinogen risk for humans caused by air pollution, which is why the Portland State University researchers chose to focus on this chemical specifically.
In particular, benzoic acid and benzaldehyde are chemicals used to carry the flavorings that give each e-liquid its distinct taste and aroma. When heated, a chemical reaction occurs that creates benzene, which is then inhaled by the vaper.

Is It Reason for Concern?

Despite the fact that benzene is found in vapor clouds, the researchers have agreed that it is found in amounts well below the toxic level. While there is concern over repeated exposure to benzene in the air, the study is quick to point out that the levels of benzene in vapor products are several magnitudes less than that present in traditional cigarette smoke.
In fact, many of the e-liquid products tested produced benzene at a rate of less than =~100 µg/m3. A few select products produced benzene up to 5,000 µg/m3.
To put these numbers in perspective, the average cigarette produces benzene at a rate of 200,000 µg/m3. It is a rate more than 40 times higher than the most “dangerous” e-liquid product tested, and more than 2,000 times higher than the average e-liquid.
The researchers used a variety of e-liquid flavors as well as different devices with various temperature settings to compare the chemical in a variety of vapor clouds.

What It Means For the Future of Vaping

This study shows that even if there are minute traces of harmful chemicals in e-liquids and vapor products, they are still significantly less than the levels found in traditional tobacco cigarettes. With benzene coming in at well below toxic levels in vapor clouds, many are arguing the government should be doing more to support the vapor industry instead of regulating against it. This study is expected to be used in further arguments against new FDA regulations that put vapor products and cigarettes in the same risk category.
This is just one of the first studies to be conducted on the specific chemical makeup of vapor clouds. The researchers at Portland State University focused their research on benzene because of its known health consequences, but ongoing research will look at other chemicals produced in the vaporization process and how they interact to impact user health.