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What are the hidden dangers of e-cigarette use?

Even though e-cigarettes have been on the market for a decade, it wasn't until the last few years that they became incredibly popular in the United States. So popular, in fact, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 2014 alone, 3.7 percent of American adults were using e-cigarettes instead of traditional tobacco products.

Touted as a safer option than smoking traditional cigarettes and recommended as an effective "smoking cessation device" by the U.K.'s Royal College of Physicians, e-cigarettes have become a common site in cities throughout the country. Are they really as safe as consumers would like to believe? Perhaps not.

The risk of exposure to toxic chemicals

Even though numerous studies have reported finding lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens in people who use e-cigarettes over those who still smoke traditional tobacco products, as a July Claims Journal article points out, these studies tend to brush over one key piece of information: users are still being exposed to harmful chemicals.

A study conducted in 2014 looked at samples from 159 e-liquids and discovered that 75 percent of them contained "diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, both chemicals that have been associated, when inhaled, with respiratory diseases."

Long-term diacetyl exposure, as you may not know, can lead to a serious lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis, or colloquially referred to as "popcorn lung." Those diagnosed with obliterative bronchiolitis have irreversible lung damage that can result in serious respiratory problems, explains Medical News Today.

The 2014 study also found that some e-liquids contained and released other toxic chemicals including formaldehyde, benzene, benzaldehyde, isoprene, cadmium and acetone. Many of these are known carcinogens or chemicals that can lead to serious health conditions.

The risk of explosions and bodily injury

The long-term health risk of exposure to toxic chemicals isn't the only hidden danger of e-cigarettes. As one Drug Watch article explains, a series of lawsuits have already been filed over the past few years by e-cigarette users who have suffered serious burn injuries and other injuries after their devices exploded.

What is the government doing to keep us safe?

While we'd expect products liability cases such as these and research studies like the one above to result in stricter safety regulations, it seems the opposite is happening. In July, the FDA announced that it would make changes to policies regarding e-cigarette and e-liquid products effectively "loosening restrictive rules laid out [in 2016]."

If the FDA follows through on these actions, e-cigarettes and e-liquids may not get any safer, meaning we could see more products liability claims filed because of these potentially dangerous products. Over time, we could end up seeing additional liability claims as more and more people come forward with long-term health problems caused by e-cigarettes.

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