Flavoring linked to ‘popcorn lung’ found in e-cigarettes, Harvard study says

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Researchers say a flavoring chemical linked to severe respiratory disease can be found in most e-cigarettes.

The Harvard University study says more than 75 percent of flavored e-cigarettes contain diacetyl.  That chemical has been linked to a debilitating respiratory disease known as “popcorn lung”. The disease first appeared in workers at a Missouri popcorn plant who inhaled artificial microwave butter flavoring.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is an irreversible condition that results in scarring on the air sacs in the lungs. Its symptoms are similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

“Due to the associations between diacetyl, bronchiolitis obliterans and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavored e-cigarettes,” the Harvard study concluded.

The study also found two related, potentially harmful compounds in many of the tested flavors.

The study’s authors say the findings show that there’s much to be learned about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes. In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage,” study co-author David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics, told the Harvard Gazette.