The liquid sucrose layer of e-cigarettes might not be a good idea. The temptation of synthetic sweeteners can produce dangerous chemicals, the researchers report starting May 13 in chemical studies in toxicology.
“I strongly advise consumers not to use sucralose in their fluids,” said Sven Jordi, a toxicologist from Duke Medical University who was not involved in the study.
Many users of electronic cigarettes, especially teenagers (SN: 12/22/18, p. 28), are attracted by sweet liquids and fruit flavors. However, due to poor labeling rules, it is not clear which electronic cigarette contains sucralose and how much it contains. The popular Juul brand does not contain sucralose, according to Jordan. Manufacturers also sell concentrated sucralose solutions to consumers who mix their own electronic juices.
Sucralose, sold under the Splenda brand for food and beverages, is hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar and is generally considered a safe food. However, little is known about inhalation toxicity. “This estimate is for food, but it turns out that the lungs and stomach are not the same target organ,” said study co-author David Payton, a chemist at State University in Portland.
Knowing the chemical sucralose, Paton and his team felt that the compound could be solved if heated by metal rolls in electronic cigarettes. To test the idea, they mixed electronic fluids and vaporized them with commercially available equipment in the lab. The pumps suck air through electronic cigarettes and scientists take steam to analyze.
Adding sucralose to a typical e-liquid solvent mixture, propylene glycol and glycerin, increases the production of pulmonary stimulant compounds by a factor of three to ten. Some of these compounds called aldehydes, including acetaldehyde and acrolein, are known to be toxic. The amount of aldehyde inhaled by consumers depends on factors such as how much sucrose is concentrated and how hot the coil is, Paton said.
The scientists also found low organochlorine levels, including the possibility of carcinogens, in vapor containing sucralose. Although the effects of inhaled organochlorides are not fully understood, some of these compounds “are known to have terrible long-term toxicological effects,” Jord said.
Sukralosa is very similar to granulated sugar, but it works with three hydroxyl groups of chlorine atomic sugar. Details of sucralose release chlorine ions which bind to other chemicals and interfere with other reactions in the device. When sucralose evaporates is broken down, hydrochloric acid can start and catalyze reactions that produce aldehydes, said the study. The authors also found hemiasetal compounds that can contribute to the level of aldehydes and acetals as a whole, a series of other chemicals that irritate the lungs.
It seems that hydrochloric acid is mixed with nicotine from e-cigarettes. When sucralose is present, some nicotine becomes a form that is more easily absorbed by the body. In this way, some can be even bigger to get the same nicotine injection, Jordan said. This can happen to heavy users, according to Paton, but for professionals who are less experienced, changing nicotine can reduce the severity and make it less disgusting.
And with all these potential hazards, sucralose is not really effective for sweetening e-cigarettes. As a heavy molecule, it is not easily released by smoke. This means that consumers can only get sweetness from it.