Findings from a recent study conducted at Portland State University by David Peyton, a chemistry professor, contest that e-cigarette vapor may contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, as many know, is a known carcinogen and the main component in embalming fluid. It is also one of the known ingredients in traditional tobacco cigarettes.
In response to these formaldehyde claims, e-cigarette manufacturers fired back that the study was conducted poorly and that the measurements used were not produced using realistic conditions.
According to Gregory Conley, a representative from the American Vaping Association, Peyton and the others conducting the study did not talk to people who use e-cigarettes before conducting the study.
In an interview with NPR, Conley told listeners: “[The researchers] think, ‘Oh well. If we hit the button for so many seconds and that produces formaldehyde, then we have a new public health crisis to report’.”
Since formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, of course finding an e-cigarette—which is supposed to be better than tobacco cigarettes—producing formaldehyde would be discouraging news. However, conducting a study using inadequate research methods is not the correct way to show evidence.
According to Peyton, the hypothesis was tested by simulating vaping. This was done by “drawing the vapor…into a syringe, sort of simulating the lungs.” During this process, a sample of the aerosol contained formaldehyde. More than just finding evidence of formaldehyde, Peyton concludes that the amount formaldehyde found was much higher than that in tobacco cigarettes—as much as 5-15 times higher.
Critics point out that the study was performed as if a vaper had turned up the power of their e-cigarette to its highest setting, heating the e-liquid to levels that would be much too hot for use. While formaldehyde was reportedly discovered at higher than normal outputs levels, it was not detected at a normal usage level.
Conley conceded that no vaper would actually vape under such a condition because it would make their lungs uncomfortable.
What does this all mean? E-cigarettes are relatively new and still being studied. Therefore, we will be discovering things out about them for years to come. While it is important to take this research seriously, it would be a mistake to jump to false conclusions at every study’s results. We’ve got to remember to look at the bigger picture.