A Baylor College of Medicine study, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), shows chronic exposure to e-cigarette vapors damages lungs and lowers immune response to pathogens. The four-month study, which did not address the additional harms caused by nicotine, revealed that vaping alters the composition of epithelial and immune cells of the lungs, causing a buildup of lipids (insoluble fat) that affect lung function and reduce the ability to fight off infection.
The study proposes the cause of the lung cell malfunction is linked to the vaping liquids which contain solvents such as propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). These types of solvents are FDA-approved for ingestion, not inhalation. E-cigarette liquids are also known to contain a host of unknown chemicals that may cause further damage.
The study points out the similarities and differences between vaping and traditional cigarette smoking. For example, in this study, which lasted a mere four months, mice exposed to vaping vs. air, did not immediately develop typical cigarette-smoking diseases, i.e., lung inflammation and emphysema. Instead, the study showed that vaping alters the function and composition of healthy lung cells. This creates an entirely different type of lung impairment; the long-term effects of which are unknown. The immediate effects were an increase in lipids, and reduction in immune response (i.e., a poor response to fight off pathogens in the lungs). For example, the mice exposed to vaping and infected with the flu virus had “significantly delayed immune responses to the infection and showed persistent lung inflammation.” The mice were also more susceptible to developing viral and bacterial infections.
The Baylor study results are particularly frightening in light of the recent wave of rapid onset lung conditions linked to vaping. In some of these cases, lung damage is extensive and permanent—including for vapers who used the devices for less than a month. In others, the patients have died. Baylor reports that the same macrophage lipids as discovered in the research study showed in recent cases of atypical pneumonia in vape users.
The research team used only one kind of e-cigarette in the study, the Vapor Zeus, using a liquid consisting of a “60% PG and 40% VG base” with and without nicotine. They did not use flavorings, which may contain any number of toxic chemicals, in an effort to limit the variables in the study. Baylor points out that many e-cigarettes use the same types and concentrations of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in their products.
Studies like this show that vaping is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, contrary to the claims of big vaping companies.
JUUL, in particular, has made recent, and vehement, public declarations that its product is a safe alternative to smoking and that cigarette smokers comprise their primary target market. The “safe alternative” declarations are highly questionable in light of more and more scientific studies that show harm from vaping.
Unfortunately, the FDA rules do not yet control much of e-cigarette industry public utterances—meaning they are not regulated for veracity of claims. Nor does the FDA control manufacturing of any of e-cigarette products, or the composition of the liquids. Until we learn more from research, and until the FDA steps up to control unknown variables, more and more people will be exposed, harmed, and possibly killed using vaping devices.
If you or someone you know has become seriously addicted to nicotine in e-cigarettes, has health problems associated with e-cigarettes, or has been injured by a malfunctioning e-cigarette, you should contact an experienced e-cigarette injury attorney to advise you on the ability to seek compensation for your injuries.