Popcorn Lung (a.k.a. Bronchiolitis Obliterans) reportedly causes coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, and in some extreme cases, may even require the patient getting a lung transplant. Researchers detected that the chemical components of 39 out of the 51 flavoring fluids used for vaping contained diacetyl– one of the causes of Popcorn Lung. So what does this mean for vapers? Read on to find out.
What Is Popcorn Lung And Its Causes?
In a microwave popcorn factory in Missouri, many cases of bronchiolitis obliterans were reported in the year 2004 by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bronchiolitis Obliterans is a severe and irreversible disease in which tiny air sacs present in lungs, become damaged. After further investigation, the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health- NIOSH, discovered that Diacetyl, a flavoring agent, was being commonly used to give popcorn its buttery taste. While consumption of this flavoring agent was not harmful, inhaling it was claimed to be a likely contributing factor towards the development of Popcorn lungs.
More recently, a study carried out by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that a lot of juices used in e-cigarettes for vaping contain Diacetyl. This lead to the theory that inhalation of vapor that contains this chemical agent is dangerous for health. It is usually associated with symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, which are the exact ailments of people diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Currently, this disease is irreversible.
Does Vaping Cause Popcorn Lung?
So as it turned out, it is not only microwave popcorn that uses diacetyl as a dangerous chemical flavoring. In 2015, the Environmental Health Perspectives published a journal that studied harmful chemicals linked to “Popcorn Lung”. This study also listed different types of e-cigarettes as items that contain Diacetyl, especially those that are flavored like candy and fruit, targeting young smokers.
An article on this study was published in The Independent, detailing the sampling and testing processes. 51 flavored e-cigarettes were tested, out of which 47 contained flavoring chemicals including diacetyl, more specifically in large amounts in 30 samples. It only makes sense that exposure to such dangerous chemicals through e-cigarettes or vaporizers can potentially lead to severe lung damage.
There are several vaping liquid brands and manufacturers that still use the chemical Diacetyl in their products, while others have either realized that it is hurting business, or turned it into a marketing strategy by branding their items as diacetyl-free. Some companies go to the extent of paying for chemical analysis of the products they offer, and in turn use the results for promotion and advertising purposes to health conscious people.
Of course, sometimes it is just a gimmick. We must warn you that it was reported in the news that two manufacturers were selling their products by labeling them as diacetyl-free, were using the chemical after an analysis of their products. Either way, despite the potential health hazards linked to vaping, many cigarette smokers still perceive vaping as a healthier alternative, believing it to be the lesser evil among the two.
To debunk all these reports and researches, some people- which include some prominent reputable figures, claim that the fact that e-cigarettes contain diacetyl was well-known even before the study was published. They also state that e-cigarettes don’t have any more diacetyl than normal cigarettes, and so far, research had failed to deem cigarettes as a cause of Popcorn Lung disease.
The main counter-argument remains that the presence of diacetyl in certain levels was hardly a secret, even before the 2015 research study.
Side arguments say that the research from Harvard excluded comparison to a larger and more influential group of smokers when formulating these concerns about popcorn lung, e-cigarettes, and diacetyl.
The final argument is that a research conducted on tobacco cigarettes determined that it is not a cause or risk factor for popcorn lung, despite containing higher traces of diacetyl. Seeing as how e-cigarettes contain a tiny concentration of diacetyl, their juice cannot possibly be linked as a cause of popcorn lung.
The Bottom Line
The Public Health England said in August that e-cigarettes are estimated 95 percent healthier than tobacco cigarettes, and help smokers quit smoking tobacco as well. A Government agency also noted that there is no hard evidence to support the fact that vaping specifically leads to popcorn lung disease. However, long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still under research.
For now, an easy solution that can be implemented is to common-sense and moderate legislation to stop the use of diacetyl and other similar harmful chemicals in vape juices. Another suggestion is time-consuming; conduct more research on vaping and create a standardized way to test it for any dangerous chemical agents. This alternative is robust, but some vaping companies such as the Five Pawns have been advocating for this and implementing it by paying for studies to be conducted on their products.
Till then, until the vaping industry has more transparency and evidence, activists, advocates and bloggers are constantly reminding the smoker community that vaping is overall, a much healthier option than cigarettes.