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Flavouring chemical in e-cigarettes linked to severe respiratory disease

Diacetyl among three harmful compounds found in over 75 per cent of flavoured electronic cigarettes; in other research, male hormone gives women a better sense of direction

Diacetyl, a flavouring chemical linked to cases of severe respiratory disease, was found in more than 75 per cent of flavoured electronic cigarettes and refill liquids tested by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Two other potentially harmful related compounds were also found in many of the tested flavours, which included varieties with potential appeal to young people such as Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts, and Cupcake. For more than a decade, inhaling diacetyl has been linked with the debilitating respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially termed “popcorn lung” because it first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavour in microwave-popcorn processing facilities. The researchers tested 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes and liquids sold by leading brands for the presence of diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione, two related flavouring compounds that may pose a respiratory hazard in the workplace. 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 seconds between each draw. The air stream was then analysed. At least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of the 51 flavours tested. Diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the flavours tested.

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