Is it true that Vaping can Cause Popcorn Lung?

Today’s world is full of recreational, fun-loving and amusing evils, Vaping is one of them particularly of the West. There have been till now ‘n’ number of researches conducted and published depicting the impacts of conventional smoking on the human body and it’s life. But when it comes to vaping (which has been called the less harmful alternative to smoking) such extensive and conclusive research is still going on.
Vaping Popcorn Lungs

Unscientific indications, coincidental proofs, abstract beliefs and speculations about vaping are present in tons as of now, to site the impacts on human health. One of such effects is Popcorn Lung due to vaping. The term sounds absolutely weird and has caught up the maximum unwanted attention on the internet among the other impacts of vaping.

What is Popcorn Lung?

Scientifically called as “bronchiolitis obliterans,” of just BO and seldom called as constrictive bronchiolitis. It is caused due to the exposure to chemicals inducing inflammation, blockages of the bronchioles (the smallest passages in the lungs), bronchioles are scarred and their capacity + efficiency is reduced. The sad part is that there is absolutely no cure for this disease and finally one has to go for a lung transplant.

The main chemical causing popcorn lung is none other than diacetyl which might be found in the flavors of vape juice. Diacetyl is a food additive, that was used to make popcorn buttery devoid of actual butter.

Although the origin of the name is quite unusual – In the year 2004 when the workers in the popcorn factory, Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. in Missouri, actually were found to suffer from BO caused due to the diacetyl presence in the long hours of work, the name ‘popcorn lung’ was coined. Here diacetyl was with hot oil in huge industrial vats. All the above was unveiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, an agency within the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)).

The problem is many times mistaken for other pulmonary diseases like asthma and bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia. The similar symptoms are –

  1. Heaviness and shortness of breath
  2. Dry Cough
  3. Exhaustion or reduced activity tolerance
  4. Wheezing (without cold or asthma)
  5. Fatigue

As of now, the high-end vape makers have restrained from the use of Diacetyl in their vapes. But many mass-market vaporizers have been observed to have used diacetyl in their vapes primarily to make it even more appealing to the teenagers or the others those who get allured to the flavored stuff. Diacetyl makes the vapes tastier but also very harmful especially when their vapors are inhaled by a person.

What is Diacetyl?

Diacetyl is a chemical compound naturally found in fermented foods such as alcoholic drinks, in some cultured milk products, beans, honey, coffee, apples, vinegar and also in some fruits and tobacco. It has that buttery taste which aids in improving on sweet flavors of the processed foods.

There is a strange fact which says that diacetyl and acetyl propionyl both are in the flavorings. Both when ingested do not show any signs of danger. As per FDA, these are denoted as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).

But only inhaling them for a long duration of time and in large quantities can pose a threat just like the workers were affected and therefore cause irreversible lung disease. Thus we can say this clearly that Popcorn Lung is caused by the industrial diacetyl FUMES and so is acetyl propionyl similarly dangerous.

So to state that popcorn lung is a Flavorings-Related Lung Disease would be appropriate.

So….Is There Diacetyl in Vapes?

There is Diacetyl in some e-liquids along with Acetyl Propionyl in the flavoring such as – buttery flavors, custard, and other sweet desserts. Diketones can also be present in some of the candies and fruit-flavored vape juices and few of the tobacco flavors.

As per the studies conducted by cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos and his three colleagues, Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl is in huge quantity in the sweetly flavored e-liquids. Since then the sequence of discussions and debate is continuing.

Some of the reputed manufacturers have revised their product formulations in the benefit of the vaper’s health. Yet many have still not done. The problem aggravates as some of the vapers also don’t want them to do it.

On the contrary, there are companies who have declared their diketone free formulations for the benefit of the vapers. In the UK and the European Union, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient in nic-containing vape juice.

So…Does Vaping Really Cause Popcorn Lung?

In the lack of evidence, it cannot be justified that popcorn lung is not caused by Vaping. Some of the following facts may amaze you –

Cigarette smoking and its impact on the lungs due to diacetyl is good to check on. As the impact of diacetyl in cigarette smoking is minimum 100 times more than the highest percentage of diacetyl in the vaping products. But still, smoking is never related to popcorn lung although one cigarette contains > 400 micrograms of Diacetyl which is the same as 30 cartridges of e-liquid.

There has not been even a single case of popcorn lung due to diacetyl in cigarette smoking. Those who have been reported were actually the workers of the popcorn factory.

As per NIOSH, the severe kind of lung damage is seen in smokers with bronchiolitis than the damage seen in smokers with the general smoking caused respiratory diseases.

Although the well-known risks of smoking are perceived by all, popcorn lung doesn’t seem to be one of the outcomes of smoking and so is true for vaping too.

The Gist of the Debate:

As correctly suggested by the Public Health England, the e-cigarettes are estimated 95 percent healthier than tobacco cigarettes and undoubtedly facilitates the smokers to quit smoking tobacco. In the situation where strong shreds of evidence to prove for or against ‘vaping causing popcorn lung’ is yet to come, the health of the vapers cannot be put at risk.

So an easy way out is to avoid the diacetyl and such harmful chemicals in the vape juices. The researchers come up with standardized tests which can be made mandatory for the manufacturers to certify their products.

Till then the vapers need to be reminded constantly that they are involved in a recreation of which complete impacts are not yet fully known.

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