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Safety Lead And Other Toxic Metals Present In E-Cigarette Vapors


Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
After hearing @SamuraiSam 's comments in the Triton Oil System unpacking video regarding the safety of some of the wax pens out on the market, I thought it prudent to post the actual study behind his comments. The discussion on reddit is also linked in the Triton system post. I've only posted the Abstract of the study because the graphs will not load properly. To read the entire study, follow the link in the title.

Metal Concentrations in e-Cigarette Liquid and Aerosol Samples: The Contribution of Metallic Coils

Pablo Olmedo,1,2,3 Walter Goessler,4 Stefan Tanda,4 Maria Grau-Perez,1,2 Stephanie Jarmul,1 Angela Aherrera,1 Rui Chen,1 Markus Hilpert,2 Joanna E. Cohen,5,6 Ana Navas-Acien,1,2 and Ana M. Rule1

1Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA 2Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, New York, USA 3Department of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Granada, Spain
4Institute of Chemistry, University of Graz, Graz, Austria

5Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA 6Institute of Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

BACKGROUND: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) generate an aerosol by heating a solution (e-liquid) with a metallic coil. Whether metals are trans- ferred from the coil to the aerosol is unknown.

OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to investigate the transfer of metals from the heating coil to the e-liquid in the e-cigarette tank and the generated aerosol.

METHODS: We sampled 56 e-cigarette devices from daily e-cigarette users and obtained samples from the refilling dispenser, aerosol, and remaining e-liquid in the tank. Aerosol liquid was collected via deposition of aerosol droplets in a series of conical pipette tips. Metals were reported as mass fractions (lg=kg) in liquids and converted to mass concentrations (mg=m3) for aerosols.

RESULTS: Median metal concentrations (lg=kg) were higher in samples from the aerosol and tank vs. the dispenser (all p < 0:001): 16.3 and 31.2 vs. 10.9 for Al; 8.38 and 55.4 vs. <0:5 for Cr; 68.4 and 233 vs. 2.03 for Ni; 14.8 and 40.2 vs. 0.476 for Pb; and 515 and 426 vs. 13.1 for Zn. Mn, Fe, Cu, Sb, and Sn were detectable in most samples. Cd was detected in 0.0, 30.4, and 55.1% of the dispenser, aerosol, and tank samples respectively. Arsenic was detected in 10.7% of dispenser samples (median 26:7 lg=kg) and these concentrations were similar in aerosol and tank samples. Aerosol mass concentrations (mg=m3) for the detected metals spanned several orders of magnitude and exceeded current health-based limits in close to 50% or more of the samples for Cr, Mn, Ni, and Pb.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that e-cigarettes are a potential source of exposure to toxic metals (Cr, Ni, and Pb), and to metals that are toxic when inhaled (Mn and Zn). Markedly higher concentrations in the aerosol and tank samples versus the dispenser demonstrate that coil contact induced e-liquid contamination. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2175
Definitely a concern for those of us who vape from metal coils. It's important to keep in mind that the authors only looked at kanthal and "other" materials. Kanthal is an alloy of iron, chromium, and aluminium. While popular in e-cigs, ASFAIK, it's not a common material in vape pens, but there are probably many vape pens out there that don't specify the coil material. (Keep in mind kanthal can't be used in temp control applications.)

Still expect food-grade stainless steel heated no higher than cooking temperatures to be no worse than using stainless steel cookware. There can be hot spots with any material, however. If a resistance coil is shorted anywhere along its length, it can glow red-hot at the short. Also, many e-cig vapers who rebuild their atomizers still deliberately heat their coils red hot to remove hot spots, which likely worsens any metal contamination.

Personally, now taking even more care to use only the purest 316L (food-grade) stainless steel and not let it get red hot anywhere. At least, DIY gives you the means to minimize risk.

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