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E-cigarettes could contain fungi and bacteria that cause severe lung diseases, a study has found.
Scientists, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, found harmful bugs in over a quarter of single-use cartridges and refill liquids after they tested 75 of them.
They also detected glucan – a sugary molecule usually found on fungi – in 81 per cent of the products.
The researchers said these toxins can cause a great many health problems including asthma, inflammation, and reduced lung function.
When the team examined vaping (e-cigarette) products from the top US brands, they found a microbial ‘endotoxin’ from ‘gram negative’ bacteria.
The bacteria is resistant to antibiotics due to a tough outer coating.
‘Airborne gram negative bacterial endotoxin and fungal-derived glucans have been shown to cause acute and chronic respiratory effects in occupational and environmental settings,’ lead study author Professor David Christiani said.
‘Finding these toxins in e-cigarette products adds to the growing concerns about the potential for adverse respiratory effects in users.’
The cotton wicks used in the cartridges of e-cigarettes could be a potential contamination source, the scientists said in the research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The fruit-flavored products contained higher levels of bacterial endotoxin, revealing a link between the flavoring production and the microbes.
Glucan was present in three times more quantity in cartridges than in e-liquids, and had more concentration in tobacco and menthol-flavored products.
‘In addition to inhaling harmful chemicals, e-cig users could also be exposed to biological contaminants like endotoxin and glucan,’ co-author Dr Mi-Sun Lee said.
‘These new findings should be considered when developing regulatory policies for e-cigarettes.’
The research was made public after Professor Martin McKee – a British expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – claimed Public Health England had been ignoring the harmful effects of vaping.
Professor McKee said Britain was ‘out of step’ with other countries in implementing safety standards.
He suggested that e-cigarettes shouldn’t be promoted as a stop-smoking aid before the effects of inhaling flavoring chemicals as well as nicotine are fully known.
‘When we look at the evidence we do have, there’s enough grounds for serious concerns,’ McKee said.
Public Health England has been campaigning for people to switch from smoking to e-cigarettes because they’re ’95 per cent less harmful’ as compared to tobacco products.
However, this figure has been disputed by Professor McKee as well as several other experts.
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