by Dr. Michael Siegel
A paper published this week online ahead of print in the journalCurrent Environmental Health Reports concludes that "secondhand" exposure to exhaled e-cigarette aerosol is toxic because it contains particulate matter.
(See: Fernandez E, et al. Particulate Matter from Electronic Cigarettes and Conventional Cigarettes: a Systematic Review and Observational Study. Current Environmental Health Reports.October 9, 2015.)
The methodology of this study was very simple: "We measured PM2.5 [fine particulate matter] in four different homes: one from a conventional cigarette smoker, one from an e-cigarette user, and two from non-smokers."
The purpose of the study was to compare the level of particulates generated by cigarettes and e-cigarettes to the baseline level of these particulates in the air of homes without any smokers or vapers.
Here are the results for the median PM2.5 levels (in micrograms per cubic meter):
Home with smoker: 572.52
Home with vaper: 9.88
Smoke-free, vape-free home: 9.53
Smoke-free, vape-free home: 9.36
In other words, the study found no difference in median levels of fine particulates in homes with vaping taking place compared to completely smoke-free and vape-free homes. However, the levels of fine particulates in secondhand tobacco smoke were about 60 times higher than in the homes with no smoking.
The study concludes that: "the observational study indicates that e-cigarettes used under real conditions emit toxicants, including PM2.5."
The Rest of the Story
The actual finding of the study is that the air in homes where vaping is taking place is no more dangerous than that in homes with no smoking or vaping, at least in terms of fine particulate matter exposure.
However, instead of reporting this actual finding, the article concludes that exposure to exhaled e-cigarette aerosol is toxic because it contains fine particulate matter.
The truth is that exposure to the e-cigarette aerosol is no more "toxic" than baseline exposure in a completely smoke-free, vape-free home. In other words, in terms of fine particulate matter exposure, secondhand vaping appears to represent no risk.
But the average reader would not come to this actual conclusion because the paper hides it. It has the appearance that because the results didn't come out the way the authors wanted it to, they misreported the conclusion to conform with what was apparently their predetermined conclusions against e-cigarettes.
This is a fine example of severe bias by anti-tobacco researchers in the reporting of scientific results about e-cigarettes. Sadly, it is just one of many examples we have seen in recent years.
The rest of the story is that many anti-tobacco researchers, advocates, and groups have a strong bias against e-cigarettes, and this bias is being reflected in their misrepresentation of the evidence from scientific studies of these products.
Not only can't the public trust information they are hearing about e-cigarettes from anti-smoking and health groups, they cannot even trust the information being reported in the scientific literature itself!