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Does vaping cause popcorn lung?

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One of the main worries about vaping is the myth of popcorn lung. But is it fact or fiction?

Vaping is an incredibly recent product compared to many. We’ve had many years to explore the pros and cons of driving, microwaves and of course, smoking, giving us decades, if not centuries of research to investigate when it comes into their effects on the human body and society in general. With vaping, we’ve only seen around ten years of the product being available to the public, and so there has only been limited research into the short-term effects of the device. This has led to a few generally unfounded or overhyped worries about the device and the products within them, and whilst some may have some cause for concern, especially worries about nicotine levels and the direct drinking of vape liquid by unwitting children, other concerns remain unfounded or have been debunked. So what camp does Popcorn lung fall under?

What is popcorn lung?

Popcorn Lung, or it’s technical name of Bronchiolitis is a disease which is considered life threatening and is also incurable. The effects are that your airways are narrowed, meaning that on a miniscule level your lungs are increasingly debilitated. This can be caused by a range of problems and most infections begin due to the breathing in of chemical particles such as chlorine or are a complication from respiratory infections. The symptoms of Bronchiolitis Obliterans include a shortness of breath, wheezing and a general fatigue. This then, is a serious illness, and one that if caused by vaping, is enough to keep anyone away from their local vape shop.

Where did the name popcorn lung come from?

So how did such a threatening illness come to be known by a nickname which many may see as comical or even cute. Well, it all comes down to a far darker story than the name lets slip. Back in 2004, at a Missouri Popcorn factory, workers began to contract this disease for unknown reasons. When a worker died, an investigation took place and it was revealed that the reason for these former workers falling ill was due to their exposure to a chemical named diacetyl.

What is diacetyl?

Diacetyl is a flavouring agent which is used in a range of different products. These include the chemical used to make butter flavoured popcorn and naturally occurs in alcoholic beverages. The chemical itself is not dangerous to consume in food products, but when inhaled can lead to the dreaded popcorn lung. This is especially problematic when it comes to vape products, diacetyl being an ingredient within some vape juices.

Should we be worried about diacetyl in vape juices?

After a study at Harvard University, it was found that 39 out of 51 vape flavours contained diacetyl, especially in the candy and fruit flavours, suggesting that harm could be caused to the lungs of these vapers. Since this came to light, and the media frenzy which ensued, most e liquid manufacturers stopped using the chemical in their juices, meaning that only substandard juices contain the flavouring agent nowadays. Many companies have even capitalised on this, making their diacetyl free liquids a selling point, ensuring a safety guarantee through rigorous safety processes and regulations, which is a wise move seeing as many vapers are turning to the devices due to it being at least 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes.

On top of this, popcorn lung has not even been diagnosed in any long-term vapers as of yet, and even in regular cigarettes, popcorn lung is rare. So, when it comes down to it, it’s good to be aware of the worries surrounding popcorn lung, but when it comes to the potential of contracting it due to vaping, there should be less concern than there currently is.


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