You might have noticed a handful of chemicals listed as ingredients on vape packaging, but it’s the chemicals you won’t find on these labels that are the most worrying.
Lab testing has found over 240 chemicals in vapes, and many of them are harmful to human health. For others, we just don’t know what breathing them into your lungs will do. Harmful chemicals are being discovered in vapes all the time, and new ones like radioactive polonium are being tested. This raises some serious questions about how these chemicals get into vapes and what kind of danger they might bring.
The chemicals in vapes can harm your health and make you feel unwell, impacting things you do everyday. Symptoms like finding it hard to breathe, headaches and lung irritation can make it harder to work or study, and ruin social activities. Vaping can even lead to serious medical emergencies.
Take a step beyond the label and discover what chemicals you’re really breathing in.
Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used to preserve dead human bodies - a process known as embalming. It is also known to cause cancer, so people working with formaldehyde must wear full body protection and make sure there is good airflow to avoid inhaling the dangerous fumes.
Breathing in formaldehyde isn’t something you want to do for fun. It can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, but the real danger is what it does to your lungs. Instead of staying airy and light, too much formaldehyde can flood your lungs with fluid. In serious cases, it can be so hard to breathe that it feels like you are drowning.
2-chlorophenol is a strong chemical that can kill insects. It's also used in hospitals to stop the spread of bacteria and infections. When you breathe it in, your body quickly feels its effects. First, your nose, eyes, and throat will feel sore and really itchy. It can also give you a bad stomach ache and make you feel weak. In serious cases, it can make your muscles spasm, causing you to shake without control.
Acrolein was once used as a chemical weapon in World War I to make poisonous tear gas. It is also known to cause permanent lung damage. Today, it’s a restricted chemical that can only be used as an herbicide to kill algae and weeds that grow underwater.
Breathing in even a little bit of acrolein can make your nose, throat, and eyes feel like they're burning. In bigger doses it can harm your lungs for life, filling them with fluid and making it really hard to breathe.
Arsenic is a chemical that is highly toxic not to only rats but also to humans. Now we know it can cause lung, liver and other cancers, it’s not even allowed to kill pests anymore.
Too much arsenic in your body can cause:
Definitely not a chemical you would choose to breathe in.
There’s a reason lead is no longer used in petrol or paint. Breathing heavy metals into your lungs is like a one-way street into your body, once they get in it’s hard to get them out! After entering your lungs, they make their way into your blood and tissue, spreading from your head all the way to your toes.
This can lead to some serious symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and loss of feeling in your hands or feet. Over time, heavy metals can build up in your organs leading to brain damage, memory loss and damage to your kidney and liver.
When the metals parts inside a vape heat up, they can break apart and form tiny metal particles in the aerosol. Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, nickel and chromium have been found in vape aerosols.
Acetone is a chemical that is powerful enough to dissolve other chemicals. Nail polish is just the start, it can also dissolve plastic, jewellery and stockings.
When acetone touches your skin it can become very dry and cracked – that’s why you’ll find it mixed in with moisturising oils in nail polish remover.
The health effects from breathing in acetone can be a lot more serious. It can cause:
You can find acetaldehyde in household cleaning products, like the ones used to clean carpets, but it’s also used in paints and even super glue.
Breathing in acetaldehyde can give you headaches, nausea and make you vomit. If your body keeps coming into contact with acetaldehyde, it can lead to serious health problems over time, like: