True or False: Is There Formaldehyde in Electronic Cigarette Vapor?

August 24, 2018 2 Comments


   Ever since the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a paper in 2015 that suggested that electronic cigarette vapor contained formaldehyde, the media, consumers and regulators alike have worried over this alarming possibility.  Formaldehyde is a breakdown product of propylene glycol, a common base used in the manufacture of e-liquids, so the idea that it might be present in exhaled vapor was a reasonable concern.  Since the original NEJM study, a number of researchers have conducted similar experiments which produced results that contradicted the NEJM conclusions but it wasn’t until the Center for Disease Control weighed in that we could finally put this myth to bed.

    A new paper available on the CDC website entitled “Evaluation of Chemical Exposures at a Vape Shop” details the data gathered by researchers who collected air samples from a vape shop where both employees and customers were actively vaping.  Despite the large amount of second hand vapor in the air, the air quality testing found no measurable concentrations of formaldehyde.  The CDC has concluded that electronic cigarette vapor contains no more formaldehyde than the air found in the average American home.  In fact, it may even contain less thanks to the outgassing of formaldehyde from fabrics, drapes and carpets found in a typical home.

    Another study, this one carried out by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), backed up the CDC’s conclusions.  The study followed a similar protocol, testing air quality in a vape shop where active vaping created a dense accumulation of exhaled vapor.  In the CDPH study, the vape shop used for the study was relatively small, non-ventilated and there were 13 customers as well as a number of employees all puffing away on their electronic cigarettes in the enclosed space.  Again, the results of the air quality testing showed no dangerous levels of exposure to ANY hazardous chemicals, including formaldehyde.

    With both of these studies as well as others carried out by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos all coming to the same reassuring conclusion, the science has spoken.  We can now officially declare that formaldehyde in electronic cigarette vapor is just a myth.

2 Responses


August 30, 2018

Hi Robb,

Thank you for your comment! In response to your question, yes and no. Yes, there have been some large studies done which generally indicate vaping is far, FAR less harmful than smoking, thus supporting it’s use as a harm reduction strategy for smokers. But also no, depending on how you define “long term studies.” Vaping has only been around since 2007 so there has not been enough time for truly long term studies which last several decades, for example, to be carried out. This is a big topic, too large to address in a comment, however, you’ve inspired me to work on a blog post on this subject—stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Itkin Robb J.
Itkin Robb J.

August 30, 2018

Thanks for this info especially considering that your Eliquids don’t contain any PG.
The equslly important question relates to first hand inhaled vapor. Are there any large independent studies on the long term effect of vaping on vapors as opposed to bystanders?

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