The recent surge in the popularity of e-cigarettes is creating regulatory and exposure issues throughout the country. Since these products are so new, no one is yet sure how they will affect the health and safety of those who consume them. What is known, however, is the harmful and even fatal effects of one e-cigarette ingredient, liquid nicotine. Our team of toxic exposure attorneys takes a closer look at this drug and why it remains unregulated by federal authorities.
Liquid nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with several types of chemicals, resulting in a powerful, stimulating neurotoxin. This and the other ingredients inside e-cigarettes, referred to as e-liquids, can cause seizures, vomiting, and other fatal complications even if ingested in minuscule amounts. Just a teaspoon of highly-diluted e-liquids can kill a child.
To make e-cigarettes, these liquids are combined in factories and shops throughout the country, then sold to physical and online stores in small bottles. Consumers may then buy these bottles, which are completely unregulated, and do with them what they please.
Toxicologists nationwide are warning the public about the dangers of e-liquids. They assert that children, particularly small children, are most at risk of accidentally ingesting the liquids because they are so often packaged in brightly colored bottles, with flavorings like cherry, bubble gum or chocolate. It’s not a question of if this will happen, they say, it’s a matter of when.
Indeed, reports of accidental ingestion among American children have skyrocketed. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of poison control calls linked to e-cigarettes jumped 300%. About 365 people were referred to emergency departments. A large proportion of those reports were in children aged two and under.
A Problem Needing a Solution
E-cigarettes are a multibillion-dollar industry, initially touted as a ‘healthier’ alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. This may be true in the long-run, but in terms of immediate poison risk, e-cigarettes are far more dangerous than tobacco products. This is due to many factors, most poignantly that the liquids can be absorbed much more quickly by the body, even if they are very highly diluted.
These products have been met with their share of opposition – they are banned in public places in major cities like Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. City officials cited the unknown nature of many of the chemicals used in these products and the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes and second-hand exposure.
Conversely, those in the e-cigarette industry believe the bans and restrictions are based on non-scientific assumptions rather than hard data. Despite this, the FDA is currently in the midst of proposing a rule that would bring e-cigarettes under its jurisdiction, so they could be regulated at a national level. The agency has not revealed how it plans to approach the industry.
Until this happens, e-liquids will continue to be among the most potent naturally-occurring toxins in the U.S. and they will be available to almost everyone, everywhere. Reports of poisoning are not exclusive to children. In Kentucky, a woman was rushed to the hospital for serious heart problems after her e-cigarette broke on her bed, spilling the e-liquid, which was then absorbed through her skin.
Regardless of age, the problem with e-liquid exposure is that many people
do not realize how dangerously toxic the chemicals are. Insiders estimate
that 2014 will bring sales of one to two million liters of e-liquid. The
chemicals are widely available for public purchase online, in as much
as 55 gallons.
Some are concerned that foreign manufacturers will start making and selling lower quality concentrations of e-liquids to cut down on costs. Since the product is unregulated, selling impure liquid nicotine is certainly a threat. Industry insiders by and large favor the regulation of e-cigarettes and e-liquids by the FDA. Many are hoping the agency will require the liquids be stored in child-proof containers with warning levels about the high toxicity and risks of ingesting the products, along with manufacturing standards.
In the meantime, reports of children and adults suffering e-liquid poisoning continue to rise. Toxic substance lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on this topic as more information arises. If you or your child ingested e-liquids or any other dangerous chemical, contact our firm immediately. We provide free, confidential legal consultations to injured victims and their families nationwide.