E-Cigarette Vapors: A Potential Source of Lead, Toxic Metal Exposure

Toxic metals leak from E-cigarettes and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users.

HealthDay News — Toxic metals, including lead, leak from some Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Pablo Olmedo, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues assessed metal concentrations in 56 e-cigarette liquid and aerosol samples. Samples were taken from the refilling dispenser, aerosol, and remaining “e-liquid” in the tank.

The researchers found that median metal concentrations were higher in samples from the aerosol and tank, compared to the dispenser (all P <.001), for aluminum, chromium, nickel, lead, and zinc. Most samples also had detectable levels of manganese, iron, antimony, and tin. More than 10% of dispenser samples contained arsenic, and these concentrations were similar in aerosol and tank samples. Aerosol mass concentrations exceeded current health-based limits for chromium, manganese, nickel, and lead in at least half of the samples.

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“Our findings indicate that e-cigarettes are a potential source of exposure to toxic metals (chromium, nickel, and lead), and to metals that are toxic when inhaled (manganese and zinc),” the authors write. “Markedly higher concentrations in the aerosol and tank samples vs the dispenser demonstrate that coil contact induced e-liquid contamination.”


Olmedo P, Goessler W, Tanda S, et al. Metal concentrations in e-cigarette liquid and aerosol samples: the contribution of metallic coils. Environ Health Perspect. 2018;126(2):027010.