Vaping products that contain vitamin E acetate can produce a dangerous gas when heated up, according to new research published in PNAS.
Vitamin E acetate, primarily found in illegally made THC-based vape liquids, is considered non-toxic in vitamin supplements and skin creams. This new research has now shown that heating up vitamin E acetate through vaping can produce ketene, a highly toxic gas.
Ketene is a colorless gas with a penetrating odor. When inhaled, it can cause serious damage to the lungs up to 24 hours after exposure. It is lethal at high concentrations, and at lower concentrations, it can irritate the eyes and lungs and impair the central nervous system.
The researchers connected a vaping device to a series of glass vessels, which allowed them to collect samples after simulating a person vaping vitamin E acetate from the device.
In addition to chemically trapping the toxic ketene gas, the researchers also found that heating up vitamin E acetate produces other carcinogens that are found in regular tobacco smoke.
“It should be noted, however, that these experiments were designed to determine the vaping effect on a single pure substance at the chemistry molecular level. Determining the exact relevance of these results to the direct cause of lung injury requires further studies due to the diversity in vaping devices, mixtures and their modes of use,” said the study’s lead author Donal O’Shea, RCSI professor of chemistry.
While vitamin E acetate is typically found in illicit street-bought vapes, the researchers warned against the potential dangers of the ever growing number of chemicals found in vaping products.
“The high temperatures created in vaping devices can lead to unforeseen chemical reactions. Therefore, other components of vape mixtures, including flavors and additives, also require investigation as they too may produce toxic and carcinogenic substances when heated,” says O’Shea.