Even though e-cigarettes are getting more and more popular with each day that passes, there are still plenty of people out there who see them as mysterious objects and don’t understand their functionality. And while everyone agrees that they represent a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, there are no clear studies to indicate the long term effect these devices have on our health. Also with the lack of these studies, many opponents of e-cigarettes can make false claims about their functionality or composition in order to frighten people from using them.
Such a statement is that electronic cigarettes contain antifreeze. An antifreeze is a chemical additive which lowers the freezing point of a water-based liquid. An antifreeze mixture is used to achieve freezing-point depression for cold environments and also achieves boiling-point elevation to allow higher coolant temperature. Antifreeze can be made of Methanol, Ethylene glycol or Propylene glycol. Methanol is a colorless, flammable and poisonous chemical that smells a bit sweet and it is often used in deicers for your car, gasoline additives or washer liquids for your windshields.
Ethylene glycol is another sweet tasting substance that is very poisonous for people and pets. After ingestion, it gives similar symptoms to other diseases so it’s very hard to diagnose, while it silently damages the lungs, heart, kidneys and brain. It has been used as antifreeze since 1926 and it has a lot of industrial uses like to keep your car radiator running in very cold temperatures or in very hot environments.
However, like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol is also able to lower the freezing point of water, and used in some antifreeze compositions, but the difference is that this substance is non-toxic. Propylene glycol is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it is used as an humectant (E1520), solvent, and preservative in food and for tobacco products, as well as being one of the major ingredients of the eliquid used in electronic cigarettes along with vegetable glycerin. Prolonged contact with propylene glycol is essentially non-irritating to the skin.
Long-term use and substantial quantities of propylene glycol (up to 5% of the total food intake) can be consumed without causing toxicity. There is no evidence in the available information on propylene glycol that demonstrates, or suggests a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current or might reasonably be expected in the future. It is also used in a wide variety of day-to-day products like makeup, shampoo or mascara.
So as you see, Propylene Glycol is harmless to humans and serious toxicity generally occurs only at plasma concentrations over 1 g/L, which requires extremely high intake over a relatively short period of time. However, due to the fact that is also used as non-toxic antifreeze, it’s often associated with the poisonous effects of Ethylene Glycol or Methanol.
That’s why in general it’s often indicated to read as many sources as possible before making your own impartial decision rather than believing all sorts of scary articles that only tell half the truth.