DALLAS — It’s been called a public health crisis.
Nationally, 34 people have died and 1,600 have gotten sick from e-cigarettes, and the numbers keep climbing, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Texas has so far had one death and 147 injuries, state health officials say.
Many of those killed and injured vaped THC. Some, however, only vaped traditional products you can buy in a store.
Besides what’s listed on the packaging, we wanted to know what’s in this stuff.
We decided to find out.
We partnered with our sister TV station in Portland, KGW, to have some popular types of e-cigarettes tested in a lab.
We bought six different vaping products – including some containing nicotine available anywhere, like at convenience stores, and some containing THC and CBD from states where marijuana products are legal.
Lightscale Labs in Portland, Oregon, tested for 130 common and problematic chemicals, including pesticides and carcinogens.
Here’s what they found:
Overall, the products we bought scored well.
The lab found the Juul menthol pod contained none of the harmful compounds for which it tested.
However, one mango-flavored vape product that said it contained CBD ... actually contained no CBD.
It did, however, contain lead.
There’s no national standard for a safe amount of lead in vaping products. But California regulators set their own limit. Our sample tested 800 times over that limit. The company couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Lead inhaled into the lung is a carcinogen that could cause cancer,” said Dr. Karen Schultz, a pediatric pulmonologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.
She’s the doctor who treated Trystan Zohfeld, the North Texas teen in the now-viral video fighting for his life in a hospital bed as a result of vaping. We took our lab results to Dr. Schultz to find out what they mean.
Our tests didn’t include analysis of the liquid in vapor form – and that could alter the chemical makeup of what’s being inhaled, she said.
“I think one of the bigger questions when you look at the ingredients of the vaping liquid is - what happens when it gets heated,” Dr. Schultz said. “We don't know what happens to all those chemicals when they get heated and then inhaled.”
Portland State University researchers have studied what happens to liquid from a Juul pod when its heated and vaporized. That study determined that Juul vapors are in fact damaging to cells.
That study emphasized “the need to determine if Juul products will lead to adverse health effects with chronic use."
Plenty of preliminary evidence from there and from many other labs around the country show these products are not nearly as safe as advertised,” said Robert Strongin, professor of Organic Chemistry at Portland State University who studies the health effects of vaping.
Juul has questioned the reliability of testing that has found its products unsafe.
“In addition to enforcing stringent manufacturing controls, we conduct extensive preclinical and toxicological testing of the ingredients and analytes in JUUL e-liquids and aerosols, including testing for harmful and potentially harmful constituents,” Juul said in a statement. “Our testing is conducted through reputable, independent third-party laboratories and we provide the results of these tests to regulatory bodies.”
But does any of this matter to people who vape? Has this latest health scare caused folks to stop?
“I'm going to be honest, probably not,” said Andrea Burns, 19, of Dallas, who said she started vaping when she was underage. “Because it was my choice to begin with. I realized the dangers.”
More on WFAA:
- Vaping-related illnesses in US still rising, but more slowly
- Kroger, Walgreens to stop selling e-cigarettes in US
- 28-year-old hospitalized in Irving warns of the dangers of vaping
- Addicted to vaping? Doctor suggests to get your lungs checked.
- Juul halts sales of fruit, dessert flavors for e-cigarettes
- Frisco ISD to add vaping prevention program in schools
- 'Momma, I'm scared': Vaping suspected in illness that's left man on life support, family says
- 'If he smoked cigarettes, he'd still be here,' says family who thinks vaping killed beloved martial arts teacher in 2013