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Chemical Elements, Flavor Chemicals, and Nicotine in Unused and Used Electronic Cigarettes Aged 5-10 Years and Effects of pH.


The concentrations of elements/metals, nicotine, flavor chemicals and acids were compared in the e-liquids of unused and used first-generation electronic cigarettes (ECs) that were stored for 5-10 years. Metal analysis was performed using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy; nicotine and flavor chemical analyses were performed using gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy. Of the 22 elements analyzed, 10 (aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, lead, nickel, selenium, silicon, tin, zinc) were often found in the e-liquids. Five elements had the highest average concentrations: copper (1161.6 mg/L), zinc (295.8 mg/L), tin (287.6 mg/L), nickel (71.1 mg/L), and lead (50.3 mg/L). Nicotine concentrations were always lower than label concentrations indicated. Of the 181 flavor chemicals analyzed, 11 were detected in at least one sample, with hydroxyacetone being present in all samples. In used products, some flavor chemicals appeared to be by-products of heating. E-liquids with the highest concentrations of acids and the lowest pH levels also had the highest concentrations of elements/metals. Metal concentrations in e-liquids increased after use in some products, and some metal concentrations, such as nickel, were high enough to be a health concern. Leachates from discarded ECs could contribute toxic metals/chemicals to the environment, supporting the need for better regulation of atomizer design, composition, and disposal.

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