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What is Popcorn Lung and Which E-Liquids Should You Avoid?

E-cigarettes are generally regarded as a much safer option when compared to direct smoking. In a study that was released just a few months ago, they concluded that e-cigs were not as harmful as traditional smoking. But, one problem that many people still continue to link with e-cigs is a condition known as the popcorn lung, which is a colloquial term for bronchiolitis obliterans. Basically, this condition is caused by scarring in the airways caused due to the inhalation of certain chemicals, which reduces the efficiency and capacity of the lungs. The only cure for people who suffer from obliterative bronchiolitis is to get a lung transplant, so as you can imagine, this is a pretty serious medical issue.

Where did Popcorn Lung Originate from?

The story begins more than a decade ago, when a group of workers in a microwave popcorn factory fell sick because they had inhaled too much diacetyl. Diacetyl, for those who don’t know, is that buttery flavour that you find in most dairy products, caramel and popcorns. While it may seem quite tasty upon consumption, diacetyl is actually very deadly; it has led to the deaths of thousands of workers around the globe who had no other option but to inhale it on a regular basis. After discoveries were made that diacetyl was the cause for this serious lung disease, many of the leading popcorn manufacturers were asked to remove diacetyl from their products. However, diacetyl is still used in the manufacture of e-liquid vapour, and that is a cause for concern.

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Understanding Popcorn Lung

Diacetyl, when inhaled, causes a bit of scarring in the small air sacs that lead up to the airways. Due to the constant scarring, the tiny air sacs begin to expand, which causes the airways to thicken, and ultimately reduce the amount of space available for air to pass through. While it may seem like a funny name at first, you should know that this is a pretty serious problem and can cause excessive coughing, wheezing, and serious shortness of breath. The symptoms of popcorn lung are exactly the same as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As has been mentioned before in this article, there is no cure for this disease. The seriousness of the symptoms can be reduced by preventing exposure to diacetyl, but the damaged air sacs cannot be treated. Getting a lung transplant is also a pretty sensitive procedure, because your body may not accept the organ.

The Use of Diacetyl

Despite the fact that diacetyl is described as the main cause of popcorn lung, it is still popularly added to many e-liquid flavourings. Many small companies that make e-liquids generally add diacetyl to certain flavours such as maple, coconut, vanilla, and several others.

In fact, a study that was conducted by private researchers at Harvard revealed that 39 of the 51 major brands that manufacture e-liquids use diacetyl as a key ingredient in their products. E-cigarettes have turned into a global phenomenon as of late; vaping is a hobby that has been taken up by millions of people all over the globe, and it is also particularly popular throughout the United Kingdom.

However, in the past, there was no oversight by the government authorities regarding the chemicals that were put into the liquids. Only recently, government authorities around the globe have started including these e-cigarettes and tobacco products under their oversight authority as well.

The excessive consumption of diacetyl in e-cigarettes is a very serious problem, and needs to be handled swiftly. It is expected that companies which use diacetyl as a key ingredient in manufacturing e-cigarettes will be asked to label that information on their boxes, and stricter regulations will be set in place to minimise the use of diacetyl in e-liquid flavourings. The rate at which bronchiolitis obliterans develops varies from person to person; some people have been known to develop it within months, whereas some contract the disease slowly over the years. Still, it should be known that the levels of diacetyl found in an actual cigarette are much higher, but because the frequency with which people vape is greater, the amount of exposure to the chemical is increased.

Are X2's e-liquid safe?

There are many brands which have taken action against this, and don’t use diacetyl anymore. For example, here at X2, one of the leading e-liquid manufacturers in Australia and the UK, we have tested our e-juice for 2,3-butanedione (Diacetyl), 2,3-pentanedione (Acetylpropionyl) and 3-hydroxy-2-butanone (Acetoin) and it was not detected above the minimum detection limit of 0.5 .Jg/mL. When buying e-liquids to use with your electronic cigarettes, you should always turn over the box and check the ingredients listed on the back to ensure that it doesn’t contain diacetyl or any other harmful chemical like pentanedione or acetoin. And remember, you started vaping to stop smoking which reduces massively your intake of harmful chemicals.