​Understanding the Hazards of E-liquids and E-cigarettes

For years E-cigarettes grew as a popular trend among many young adults and teenagers. Though e-cigarettes and other e-liquid products were originally advertised as being safer than traditional cigarettes, the claim has been called out as false. Recent studies show that e-liquid products are equally as detrimental to personal health and environmental safety as traditional cigarettes are. Understanding the hazards of e-liquids and e-cigarettes is the first step toward kicking the harmful habit for good.

Health hazards

There are many health hazards of e-liquids, some of which have become widely known in recent months, and some that are still undergoing research. E-liquids are most commonly linked to respiratory and neurological problems, and are most often used by teenagers and young adults. Vaping and e-cigarette use is linked to lung disease and respiratory illnesses due to many of the same factors as traditional cigarettes. The repeated inhalation of nicotine vapors causes irritation within the lungs and can lead to infection if not treated properly. As with other cigarettes, repeated e-cigarette use can lead to shortness of breath and chest pain. Symptoms typically progress quite slowly and are not often noticeable until they are severe.

E-cigarettes and children
• The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.

• Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

• E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.

• Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.

E-liquid use can also lead to certain brain-related issues. E-liquids are most commonly used by teens and young adults. Drug use has a much stronger impact on individuals in this age demographic, as their brains are not yet fully developed. This can lead to long-term developmental issues, such as the development of mood disorders or trouble managing impulse control. Because e-liquids use nicotine, there is also a risk of addiction, which can yield lifelong issues in an individual’s life. This is an ironic discovery because vaping was supposed to help wean people away from traditional cigarette nicotine addiction.

Lawsuits have claimed that at least one e-cigarette company has deceptively marketed the vaping devices as being safe when in actuality they contain more potent doses of nicotine than traditional cigarettes. As part of the resolution of the lawsuit, changes were requested regarding the company’s marketing practices.

In 2019 and 2020, an outbreak of severe vaping lung illness in the US was strongly linked to vitamin E acetate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The outbreak of lung illnesses related to e-cigarettes were first identified in Illinois and Wisconsin in April 2019. In a CDC telebriefing on Friday, November 8, 2020, the CDC stated that the chemical vitamin E acetate is a very strong culprit of concern in the lung illnesses related to THC-based vaping products, but did not rule out other chemicals as possible causes

Environmental hazards

Many people who use e-cigarettes believe that it’s a choice that will affect only themselves. They fail to realize, however, that e-liquids also pose a significant environmental risk. E-liquids are characterized as a form of hazardous waste by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) known as P075 (“Nicotines & salts). The e-liquids are classified as P-listed waste, meaning that they contain pure, unused chemicals intended for commercial use. As such, e-liquid waste requires special accommodations for safe waste disposal. However, as most people are unaware of these special requirements, e-liquids are often disposed of in dumpsters and landfills. This can cause significant environmental damage, as the chemicals used by most e-cigarettes can cause severe contamination. If deposited in a landfill, the nicotine within an e-cigarette, as well as the chemicals within the cigarette’s lithium battery, can leach into soil and cause harm to surrounding wildlife. The manufacturing companies that produce e-cigarettes also expel a significant amount of waste that can place wildlife at risk.

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See also …

40 CFR section 261.33.

Cornell Law School | Criteria for listing hazardous waste

EPA | Final Rule: Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendment to the P075 Listing for Nicotine

EPA | Defining Hazardous Waste: Listed, Characteristic and Mixed Radiological Wastes

CDC | Transcript of CDC Telebriefing: Update on Lung Injury Associated with E-cigarette Use, or Vaping

CDC | Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults

CDC/Surgeon General Report | Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults [PDF]

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