Flavored Vape Chemicals Cause Popcorn Lung: It Can Kill You

-edited

The center for disease control note 530 confirmed vaping illnesses, most misdiagnosed as pneumonia. Eight are dead.

Just a bit ago, I wrote 530 Confirmed Vaping Illnesses, Most Misdiagnosed as Pneumonia.

In response, a reader suggested that I should do a search for "Popcorn Lung".

He said that if I did, I may never eat microwave popcorn again.

Intrigued about microwave popcorn, a search lead me to this Harvard University Study: Chemicals linked with severe respiratory disease found in common e-cigarette flavors

Diacetyl, a flavoring chemical linked to cases of severe respiratory disease, was found in more than 75% of flavored electronic cigarettes and refill liquids tested by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Two other potentially harmful related compounds were also found in many of the tested flavors, which included varieties with potential appeal to young people such as Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts, and Cupcake.

The study will be published online December 8, 2015 in Environmental Health Perspectives and will be available here after the embargo lifts: .

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the flavoring industry have warned workers about diacetyl because of the association between inhaling this chemical and the debilitating respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially termed “Popcorn Lung” because it first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn processing facilities.

“Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavoring chemicals started with ‘Popcorn Lung’ over a decade ago. However, diacetyl and other related flavoring chemicals are used in many other flavors beyond butter-flavored popcorn, including fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, and, we learned in our study, candy flavored e-cigarettes,” said lead author Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science.

There are currently more than 7,000 varieties of flavored e-cigarettes and e-juice (liquid containing nicotine that is used in refillable devices) on the market.

Allen and colleagues tested 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes and liquids sold by leading brands for the presence of diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione, two related flavoring compounds that are listed as “high priority,” i.e. they may pose a respiratory hazard in the workplace, by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association. Each e-cigarette was inserted into a sealed chamber attached to a lab-built device that drew air through the e-cigarette for eight seconds at a time with a resting period of 15 or 30 second between each draw. The air stream was then analyzed.

At least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of the 51 flavors tested. Diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the flavors tested. Acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione were detected in 46 and 23 and of the flavors, respectively.

Study Conclusion June 2016

"Because of the associations between diacetyl and 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."

WTF Moment

This is one of those WFT moments in more ways than one.

  1. That article was from 2015. Why did it take years for doctors to figure this out in 2019.
  2. More importantly, why didn't the FDA ban those chemicals.
  3. Instead of banning flavors, why not ban cancer-causing agents?

Federal Death Agency

Perhaps we should rename the FDA, Federal Death Agency for delaying products that can save lives and not banning substances known to be hazardous.

I would love to take credit for that term but I was at a conference a few years back in which Doug Casey gave a speech on that topic.

I smell lawsuits and lots of them over this fiasco.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (50)
Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Why blame doctors? This is all about lobbyists and the government working hand in hand. Smoking kills you too but that isnt illegal. Good riddance to those who choose to smoke and die. I have no sympathy for those that make obviously unhealthy choices. Insurance companies should not pay death benefits to anyone who smokes.

abend237-04
abend237-04

This makes us look more stupid than China in her melamine debacle of 2007/8, even worse. Melamine passes as protein in standard tests, but is cheaper per ounce...and killed 6 infants drinking it in milk formula. China sentenced two to death for this little cost cutting step. We knew the danger here, pulled it off the shelf and re-learned it by killing 8 more four years later. Seldom do I root for ambulance chasers: Sic'em!

Tengen
Tengen

A few years ago I had a coworker friend who started vaping as a means of quitting regular cigarettes. For a while it worked, and he would explain how he kept changing his vaping liquid to lower and lower nicotine levels, gradually weening himself off the drug.

Then something went wrong and he started smoking again, meaning he was now smoking AND vaping. He was also obese and generally unhealthy. He's probably going to die young, which stinks because he was a funny, clever guy otherwise.

Rather than having the government freak out about vaping, I'd like to see people stop of their own volition. If they want to line up for Darwin awards, that's their business.

Odie0260
Odie0260

Its irresponsible people like yourself who are adding to the panic behind this issue!! Diacetyl was banned in eliquids two years ago by the FDA. There is not ONE illness related to nicotine vaping. These illnesses are coming from black market THC carts using vitamin E oil as a cutting agent. This is about the MSA and the money being lost by greedy politicians who staked their states futures on cigarette futures and Mike Bloomberg who is so deep up big tobacco's ass he can taste what they had for dinner as they eat it. It's real funny how nicotine vaping has been around for over a decade and there were no illnesses. Now some moron kids who their parents are just shocked that little Johnny was using a juul he bought on the street and now he is sick. Fuck those little assholes and the stupid parents.

Country Bob
Country Bob

I think putting extra chemicals into one's lungs is a really bad idea, regardless of what the medical profession does or doesn't think -- so I am not trying to defend vaping, I am trying to understand the story as Mish presented it...

However many doctors (at least 530? more? less?) were convinced that a mystery illness was pneumonia. But then, after learning of a problem in 2015, they got together in a committee in 2019... and magically connected some dots and now they decide to blame vaping?

Why now? Why were these "experts" convinced that it was pneumonia (wrong?) before? They are now equally convinced it is vaping (wrong again? were they right the first time?). As several other commenters noted, people have been putting funny stuff in their lungs for centuries (hooka pipes, native americans smoked tobacco leaves, etc etc). People in the Andies mountains chew cocaine leaves and have no problem with that (yes, lots of other health problems, but not that). Why should we believe the doctors this time? Were they wrong on the pneumonia, wrong on vaping, or wrong on both counts? Where is Dr House when we need a real diagnostic pathologist?

There is more to this story, even if one agrees that inhaling strange chemicals into one's lungs is a dumb idea. Seems like at least some blame belongs to the idiots doing the vaping. What sort of brainless twit needs the FDA to tell you not to hurt yourself? Darwinism folks. Masochists don't need to reproduce.

.

As for the FDA... well they are bureaucrats @Mish Editor . They are no different than the soulless zombies you encounter at the DMV. Public service is an oxymoron, and its way way way past time to right size the government.

Country Bob
Country Bob

I can't wait for some Darwinism reject to tell us that smoking marijuana is bad for us. The chemicals have been found to prevent serotonin transmission in the brain. That means the person gets sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression. Even when they "sleep", they aren't getting deep sleep (REM as its called) -- so they get all sorts of neurological and psychological problems. THC is as safe as nicotine, especially when its concentrated and ingested often.

We all know this. Its well documented. Even without a "scientific study", people who smoke a lot are, shall we say, not the sharpest tools in the shed. Yeah, go ahead and tell me about Elon Musk inventing the tunnel or the golf cart -- he is definitely a good self promoter.

But there is money to be made off the idiots. Lots of money. So the legalization process began despite all the known information.

Everyone remember to act surprised when the pot smoke clouds dissipate and the idiots turn out to have health problems.

2banana
2banana

Sue black market oil vap producers?

"I smell lawsuits and lots of them over this fiasco"

Jojo
Jojo

Vaping would be a lot less attractive to the kiddies if vaping didn't produce smoke to exhale. That's the "coolness" factor (same with cigs) that too many overlook. Remove the smoke from the product (keep the vaporized nicotine) and kids will abandon vaping in droves.

Jojo
Jojo

The Ridiculous Campaign Against Vaping By RICH LOWRY September 18, 2019

Never before has a boon to public health been met with such hysteria and ingratitude.

Vaping is almost all upside in comparison with traditional smoking, a wanton destroyer of health and lives, and yet the nation is in the grips of a panic about e-cigarettes.

In a rarity for the Trump era, the anti-vaping sentiment jumps traditional geographic and political bounds, running from the Oval Office to San Francisco, from President Donald Trump to his most fervent enemies.

...

Sechel
Sechel

what i find funny is the claim that e-cigarettes are safer and a way to stop smoking cigarettes. both have never been proved and the implication is that this is a first step toward quitting altogether seems just as false. People are just trading the devil they know for the devil they don't know.

Sechel
Sechel

I'm reading more and I don't see any confirmation that vaping is linked to popcorn synrome. I think you jumped the gun on this Mish

frozeninthenorth
frozeninthenorth

Only a cretin with think that "inhalling" chemicals (of any sort) is a good idea! If people who "vape" thought they were giving up something unhealthy for something healthy, clearly they never understood their biology classes -- that the lungs are one of the most efficient ways of transferring chemicals to the bloodstream...I guess it never dawned on them that this little bottles of chemicals were chemicals that they were sucking right into their lungs and bloodstream.

Sechel
Sechel

Does vaping cause popcorn lung? No. There’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause the lung condition called popcorn lung. There’s been no cases of popcorn lung reported in people who use e-cigarettes.

If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health is to stop. Find more information on e-cigarettes and how to stop smoking.

What is popcorn lung? Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a type of lung disease, but it is not cancer. Although popcorn lung is very rare, some e-cigarette users may worry about it.

A link between breathing in a chemical called diacetyl was made when a cluster of popcorn factory workers were all found to have the rare lung condition. It was not related to use of e-cigarettes. And more research is needed on the apparent link between diacetyl and popcorn lung. This includes the amount of the chemical at which any damage might occur.

What does the evidence really say about diacetyl and e-cigarettes? A few studies, published around 2015, looked at whether e-cigarette liquids available at the time contained diacetyl. They found that a large proportion of e-liquid flavours tested did contain some level of diacetyl. The idea that e-cigarettes could cause popcorn lung came from these studies.

However, this study didn’t look at whether there was a link between e-cigarette use and popcorn lung in people. So far, there’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause popcorn lung.

In the UK, diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquid under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016. So, e-liquids sold in the UK shouldn’t contain diacetyl. Current research finds that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and there’s growing evidence they may help some people to quit.

numike
numike

‘The Bells Start Going Off.’ How Doctors Uncovered the Vaping Crisis. Wall Street Journal. Notice how a nurse figured it out.

KidHorn
KidHorn

Seems the smart thing to do is to not smoke anything. Pretty sure inhaling oxygen and nitrogen doesn't cause problems.

WarpartySerf
WarpartySerf

Let's take a poll ...... which government agency is the most sold-out to corporations?

The FAA or FDA ? It's a close call

Webej
Webej

"I would love to take credit for that term"

I must say I'm also partial to the rather apt term "bronchiolitis obliterans".

Lou Polish
Lou Polish

Regarding the "WTF Moment" much of the US vaping industry did self correct when news of diacetyl, a naturally occurring substance in much of our consumables, became more well known. This happened years ago. Recall that a man that smelled bags of popcorn twice a day for 10 years received a settlement around that time.

Most of the more popular retailers disclosed flavors containing diacetyl, reformulated the flavor without diacetyl or with substitutes, or removed the flavor altogether.

The kicker being that cigarettes contain 750 times more diacetyl then the average e-liquid flavor that might contain it, but that doesn't generate the hysteria that people are looking for.

"Looking at the numbers, Siegel found “daily exposure to diacetyl from smoking is therefore 750 times higher, on average than exposure to diacetyl from vaping.” Vapers are, on average, exposed to a daily dose of nine micrograms of diacetyl, compared with 6,718 micrograms for smokers."

omera
omera

I think FDA is one of the most corrupt federal agencies in terms of consumer protection. Just a quick search shows so many high level employees leaving the agency for the companies they supposed to regulate. Below link is a recent example. I found many more when I was reading about GMOs. The day FDA puts a regulatory stance on consumption regulations for sugar and its derivatives, I may start to trust them. https://www.ft.com/content/b41af990-9922-11e9-8cfb-30c211dcd229, Ex-FDA boss joins Pfizer 83 days after leaving US drug regulator

MorrisWR
MorrisWR

Mish, you are right about the FDA and other government health agencies. I worked for 20 years in forensic toxicology and was a researcher. We dealt with NIDA and other regulatory agencies. They are there to protect their positions in the bureaucracy.