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What exactly are you inhaling when you vape?

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


What happens when various chemical compounds and flavouring agents are mixed together and then inhaled into the lungs? Nobody knows for sure.

That’s because scientists are just beginning to investigate the health effects of vaping products.

A study published this week found unexpected new chemical combinations in vape liquids that appear to activate cellular irritant receptors.

“Once the components are mixed there are chemical reactions happening that form new compounds with completely unknown toxicity,” said Sven Jordt, a biochemist at Duke University School of Medicine.

That could suggest a new reason to be concerned about long-term health risks from vaping.

With the popularity of Juul and other trendy vaping products, researchers are becoming more interested in the effects of long-term exposure to the more than 7,000 flavouring chemicals used in vaping liquids on young lungs.

“There is a big wave of users now coming up that have never smoked before that start using e-cigarettes and they are exposed to these chemicals,” Jordt said.

‘Not stable’

Some of the e-cigarette flavours can contain aldehydes. That interested Jordt’s team, because aldehydes are one of the main irritants in smoke, causing coughing and inflammation. In their study, they looked at vanilla, cherry and cinnamon flavours.

When they tested the resulting vaping mixtures, they were surprised to discover new compounds called acetals had formed.

“What we see is these are not stable liquids and these flavours undergo chemical reaction modifications forming a wide range of compounds that we don’t know much about.”

The researchers tested the acetals in human cells to see if they could activate irritant receptors and “found that they are a stronger irritant than the actual original flavours.”

With the popularity of Juul and other trendy vaping products, researchers are looking at the possible effects of the long-term exposure of flavouring chemicals on young lungs. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

Because the potential toxicity of the new compounds is different than either the basic vaping ingredients, usually propylene glycol and glycerin, or the added flavouring chemicals, the study concluded that “e-liquids are potentially reactive chemical systems,” so just knowing the original ingredients is not enough to determine the long-term safety of the heated vapour.

“Some of these flavours are safe to use in food, but there is very little safety information when they are inhaled,” Jordt said.

“We know the lungs are much more sensitive to chemicals than the skin or the digestive tract so this needs to be studied separately if there is a potential for causing disease, inflammation, asthma or emphysema.”

Public health paradox

How worried should we be?

The answer reveals the public health paradox at the heart of the vaping craze. Compared to the profoundly toxic exposure from cigarettes, experts agree that it’s much safer to vape.

But for young people with no smoking habit and no intention to smoke cigarettes, chemicals in the flavoured vapour could pose long-term health risks that are still unknown.

Eric Liberda, inhalation toxicologist with Ryerson University’s School of Occupational and Public Health, said the results of Jordt’s study need to be reproduced in animal and human models before the true health impacts can be assessed.

“While vaping has been shown to be successful in terms of smoking cessation, this whole idea that youth have access to it and are not smokers to begin with but they’re vaping could potentially be an issue,” he said. “That still needs a lot more research.”

The rules

Health Canada has issued a guidance document for the vaping industry advising that flavour ingredients “should be of food grade or higher purity, and those substances with known inhalation risk (e.g., diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione) should not be used.”

Diacetyl is the chemical associated with a condition dubbed “popcorn lung” after workers in factories that made microwave popcorn developed lung disease from breathing in the flavouring. When added to vaping liquids, it creates a buttery or caramel flavour, while  2,3-pentanedione is a diacetyl substitute.

The company that makes the popular Juul vaping product says on its website it does not add those particular flavouring compounds. But no list of flavouring ingredients is provided.

So far, no vape flavouring chemicals have been formally banned by Health Canada.

“The use of flavours in vaping liquids is not restricted under theTobacco and Vaping Products Act,(TVPA),” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said in an email.

There are also no federal requirements to list the flavouring ingredients on vaping packages in Canada.

But companies are prohibited from promoting certain flavours on the packaging, including candy, dessert and soft drink, which might appeal to young people.

“While flavours help make vaping liquids palatable to adult smokers seeking a less harmful alternative to tobacco, the promotion of certain flavours may appeal to young persons and induce them to use these vaping products,” Durette said. “In this way, the TVPA seeks to achieve a balance between these competing public health interests.”

Health Canada is still examining various proposals for regulating the vaping industry, including the requirement to list ingredients on the packaging.

Jordt and his team concluded there is a need for “a rigorous process” by regulators “to monitor the potentially changing composition of e-liquids and e-vapors over time, to identify possible health hazards.”


If you enjoy reading Second Opinion, you might also like another weekly newsletter just launched by CBC News. It’s called What on Earth? and will highlight trends and solutions that are moving us to a more sustainable world. To have it delivered to your email inbox every Thursday afternoon, subscribe here.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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