AIHA Cautions Against Indoor Use of Electronic Cigarettes

A new study examined the potential risks from using e-cigarettes indoors.

AIHA has described the potential exposures and health risks associated with the use of electronic cigarettes in a new white paper. It reviewed current scientific information and evaluated the effects of chemicals used in e-cigarettes and emitted from them. The paper indicated they can emit airborne contaminants that may affect both the user and people nearby.

"Vaping has been promoted as a smoking cessation toll that has no smoke," said Cheryl L. Marcham, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, CHMM, project team leader on the study. "However, research indicates that emissions from vaping may contain nicotine and other contaminants whose health effects have not been thoroughly studied."

E-cigarettes are frequently promoted as safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco. However, they have been shown to emit aerosols and several organic compounds, including nicotine, acetone, acrolein, formaldehyde, and flavoring compounds.

The paper recommends that health care providers, e-cigarette companies and distributors, and the public health community understand that e-cigarettes are not emission-free, and that limited scientific information exists on their potential health risks. Risk assessment methods that look at the costs and benefits of e-cigarettes may be more useful than quantitative health risk assessments.

"While e-cigarettes may appear to provide a 'safer' alternative to tobacco cigarettes, these products have been shown to emit airborne contaminants that may be inhaled by both the vaper and those nearby," said Marcham. "As a result, the project team concluded that e-cigarettes should be considered a source of organic compounds and particulates in the indoor environment until they have been thoroughly evaluated for safety."

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