Health officials are increasingly concerned over the safety of electronic cigarettes due to new reports of explosions and the toxic risks of liquid nicotine.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a report Thursday outlining the risk of “thermal runaway,” which occurs when the lithium-ion battery of the e-cigarette rapidly overheats and either ignites or explodes. While many people who vape, or “vapers,” think of this risk as minimal or one-off accidents, health officials caution they are moderately common occurrences. Injuries range from minor to third-degree burns that require skin grafts, reports WKRN.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center surgeon Dr. Callie Thompson, who contributed to the report, said she treats an average of one to two patients with e-cigarette burns a month. (RELATED: Vaping Indoors ‘Unlikely’ To Pose Any Risk To Non-Vapers)
“Either the batteries are free in someone’s pocket or potentially installed incorrectly in the machine,” Dr. Thompson told WKRN. “I’ve primarily seen second- and third-degree burns. There have been a few patients, since I’ve been here at Vanderbilt, that I’ve had to operate on and do skin grafts for their burns because they were so severe that they wouldn’t heal on their own.”
An electronic cigarette exploded inside the pocket of a passenger on a Harry Potter ride in Universal Orlando in early October, shooting a fireball into 14-year-old Caroline Saylor. Saylor, who was sitting next to the passenger, suffered both first- and second-degree burns as well as injuries to her face, neck, arms and legs. Saylor had boarded the “Hogwarts Express” ride with her family and several other teenagers. (RELATED: E-Cigarette Blows Up Inside Harry Potter Ride, Injuring Teen)
The research also examined the toxic impact of the nicotine fluid used in e-cigarettes and recent reports of small children ingesting it. The report indicates that instances of children six years old and younger swallowing the fluid are up by 1,500 percent.
In a separate research report, doctors found evidence suggesting that strawberry-flavored nicotine fluid carried the most toxins. Researchers noted that regular cigarette smoke is still far more detrimental to health than e-cigarette fluid, but they are still concerned with its overall impact, according to Reuters.
“We found that strawberry-flavored product was the most toxic among all liquids we tested,” Maciej Goniewicz, senior study author, told Reuters. “Our findings raise some concerns about the safety of additives used in e-cigarettes.”
Research suggests that e-cigarettes are still an overwhelmingly safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. Studies have found that there is no meaningful impact on others from the vapor exhaled from an e-cigarette, unlike the health risks of inhaling secondhand smoke.
A recent independent study found that using e-cigarettes is 95 percent safer than smoking, with e-cigarettes containing almost none of the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes.
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