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Electronic Cigarette Refill Fluids Sold Worldwide: Flavor Chemical Composition, Toxicity, and Hazard Analysis.


Flavor chemicals in electronic cigarette (EC) fluids, which may negatively impact human health, have been studied in a limited number of countries/locations. To gain an understanding of how the composition and concentrations of flavor chemicals in ECs are influenced by product sale location, we evaluated refill fluids manufactured by one company (Ritchy LTD) and purchased worldwide. Flavor chemicals were identified and quantified using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). We then screened the fluids for their effects on cytotoxicity (MTT assay) and proliferation (live-cell imaging) and tested authentic standards of specific flavor chemicals to identify those that were cytotoxic at concentrations found in refill fluids. A total of 126 flavor chemicals were detected in 103 bottles of refill fluid, and their number per/bottle ranged from 1-50 based on our target list. Two products had none of the flavor chemicals on our target list, nor did they have any nontargeted flavor chemicals. A total of 28 flavor chemicals were present at concentrations ≥1 mg/mL in at least one product, and 6 of these were present at concentrations ≥10 mg/mL. The total flavor chemical concentration was ≥1 mg/mL in 70% of the refill fluids and ≥10 mg/mL in 26%. For sub-brand duplicate bottles purchased in different countries, flavor chemical concentrations were similar and induced similar responses in the in vitro assays (cytotoxicity and cell growth inhibition). The levels of furaneol, benzyl alcohol, ethyl maltol, ethyl vanillin, corylone, and vanillin were significantly correlated with cytotoxicity. The margin of exposure calculations showed that pulegone and estragole levels were high enough in some products to present a nontrivial calculated risk for cancer. Flavor chemical concentrations in refill fluids often exceeded concentrations permitted in other consumer products. These data support the regulation of flavor chemicals in EC products to reduce their potential for producing both cancer and noncancer toxicological effects.

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