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  • Posted April 30, 2024

Another Teen Vaping Danger: Toxic Lead, Uranium

Teens who vape frequently are exposing themselves to harmful metals like lead and uranium, a new study finds.

Lead levels in urine are 40% higher among intermittent vapers and 30% higher among frequent vapers, compared to occasional vapers, results show.

And urinary levels of uranium were twice as high among frequent vapers as occasional vapers, researchers reported April 29 in the journal Tobacco Control.

Exposure to these sort of heavy metals could harm the developing brains of teenagers, resulting in thinking problems and behavioral disorders, researchers said. These metals also increase the risk of breathing problems, cancer and heart disease.

“E-cigarette use during adolescence may increase the likelihood of metal exposure, which could adversely affect brain and organ development,” concluded the research team led by Dr. Hongying Dai, associate dean of research with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha.

“These findings call for further research, vaping regulation and targeted public health interventions to mitigate the potential harms of e-cigarette use, particularly among adolescents,” the researchers added in a journal news release.

An estimated 14% of high school students, more than 2 million, used an e-cigarette in 2022, along with more than 3% of middle school students, around 380,000, researchers said in background notes.

Heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead have been found in e-cigarette vapor previously, along with many other potentially harmful chemicals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 200 teenage vapers drawn from an ongoing national study. Their urine samples were tested for the presence of cadmium, lead and uranium.

In the past month, one in three (33%) vapers said they'd used menthol or mint flavors, half (50%) opted for fruit flavors and more than 15% chose sweet flavors.

Researchers said they are particularly concerned about the uranium levels found in vape flavors like chocolate, candy or desserts.

Vapers who preferred sweet flavors had 90% higher uranium levels in their urine than those who opted for menthol or mint flavors, researchers found.

“Candy-flavored e-cigarette products make up a substantial proportion of adolescent vapers, and sweet taste in e-cigarettes can suppress the harsh effects of nicotine and enhance its reinforcing effects,” increasing the potential for addiction, researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more about e-cigarettes.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, April 29, 2024

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