When e-cigarettes were first introduced, many believed they were the better and healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. But unfortunately, studies have proven otherwise.

They are no better than the cigarettes smokers are used to. In fact, they are more dangerous with some reports showing explosions due to e-cigs and even smokers slipping into comas.

Here’s even more news: according to new research from the Harvard University‚Äôs T. H. Chan School of Public Health, a chemical in some of the liquids of electronic cigarettes can cause a life-threatening disease known as popcorn lung.

This is a rare condition where the airways in the lungs become narrower and weaker due to inflammation or scarring. This irreversible disease that can cause death is also known as bronchiolitis obliterans.

E-Cig Smokers Beware of This Chemical

The flavoring chemical that the scientists are talking about is known as diacetyl. This chemical is linked to the development of popcorn lung disease after the Harvard researchers tested over 75% of flavored e-cigs and refill liquids. The name of the disease may sound unusual, but it was coined when workers of microwave popcorn processing factories got sick after inhaling the artificial butter flavor in their products.

Diacetyl was found in 39 out of 51 flavors inspected by the researchers with different concentrations, ranging from very small amounts to 239 micrograms for every e-cig. Diacetyl is considered a safe flavoring when added to food. However, when people smell it regularly, it can cause the popcorn lung disease. This is based on the data about the appearance of the disease over a decade ago. When inhaled and popcorn lung develops, scarring of the lungs may take place until the lungs lose their function. The only available treatment is to have a lung transplant.

Symptoms of the lung disease include:

  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fevers
  • Skin inflammation
  • Eyes, nose, and/or throat inflammation
  • Asthma
There's nothing cool in getting a disease
There’s nothing cool in getting a disease

Unfortunately, the symptoms are almost the same as other diseases, particularly tobacco-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This makes popcorn lung disease quite difficult to diagnose unless there is a high level of suspicion about the cause.

Nicotine was the main focus of e-cig critics, but diacetyl can be an even bigger concern. Aside from this chemical, 2.3-pentanedione and acetoin are two other flavoring compounds found in e-cigarettes that may pose a threat to the respiratory system. Based on the Harvard research, 47 out of the 51 e-cig flavors have at least one of the three chemicals.