Quoting a shocking news headline is much easier than reading the article it sits atop. Anti-vaping lobbyists know this fact well, so they cite zingers like “Your Vaping Teen Could Be Sucking Up Antifreeze” to promote panic among the non-vaping public. Is there some truth to the shocking claim that e-cigarettes contain antifreeze? Indeed there is, but that doesn’t mean anyone is inhaling radiator fluid.
The Truth About E-Cigs and Antifreeze
When most readers see the word “antifreeze,” they envision the toxic, bright green liquid often used as a coolant in car radiators. In chemistry lingo, antifreeze is anything that lowers the freezing point of water. In cars, they protect the radiator from damage by preventing ice crystals from forming while the engine cools; however, antifreezes are also added to medicines, cosmetics and even processed foods to control moisture. As you can see, there are many types of antifreezes for different purposes, so “sucking up antifreeze” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as drinking automotive fluids.
Anatomy of the Antifreeze Scare
Clamor about antifreeze in e-cigs began with a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. One of the 18 types of e-liquids that the FDA analyzed contained low levels of diethylene glycol, which is a commonly used solvent in automotive antifreeze. The amount of diethylene glycol detected was not high enough to be toxic, and all studies since then have yet to find the chemical in any other e-liquid samples. Nonetheless, e-cig detractors have latched onto this story in an attempt to convince the public that all e-liquids containing chemical antifreezes are toxic.
In their study’s conclusion, the FDA warns that, “Due to the variability among products, this analysis should not be used to draw conclusions about what substances are or are not present in particular electronic cigarettes or brands.” Therein lies the problem: There are no industry standards, so consumers don’t know exactly what they are getting when they buy an e-cig at a gas station. Currently, the onus is on consumers to protect their health by choosing to purchase only from reputable companies like White Cloud.
Propylene Glycol: The Consumer-Friendly Antifreeze
Most e-liquids, including those offered by White Cloud, are primarily made of propylene glycol, which the FDA has recognized as a non-toxic antifreeze for years. It can be found everywhere from food coloring to fog machines. Studies confirming propylene glycol’s safety when inhaled as a vapor date back to 1974, and there’s a good chance that you’ve unknowingly consumed the chemical while eating store-bought ice cream. In e-liquids, it is responsible for producing the vapor that helps emulate the act of smoking a tobacco cigarette. Vegetable glycerin is another popular e-liquid base used for the same purpose, but it is neither healthier nor more harmful than propylene glycol. Compared to the hundreds of carcinogens present in tobacco products, the science suggests that the contents of e-liquid provide vapers a safer alternative to cigarettes.
Foraging for the Facts
While White Cloud is proud to have the highest safety and quality standards in the business, we want all e-cig companies and distributors to be held to higher standards. Oversight, consistency and well-enforced age restriction laws are needed to protect consumers. Governments, healthcare agencies and e-cig companies must work together to reach logical solutions that are in the best interest of everyone’s health. Meeting this goal may require concessions from all sides, which is great so long as the conversation is grounded in facts and not fear. The next time you hear someone accusing vapers of “sucking up antifreeze,” point out that many of the products they consume likely contain antifreezes as well!