A Dentist Warning: Formaldehyde Found in Electronic Cigarettes

Posted on: April 17, 2015

dentistIt is oral cancer awareness month and just as the marketing campaigns are in full swing, we have read reports of formaldehyde being found in electronic cigarettes.  As a dentist, we are concerned about oral cancer in general because it claims one life in the United States every hour – every day.  This is a staggering statistic that most people are unaware of.  Tobacco use is a known cause of cancer along with the HPV virus.  Many people that have been smoking traditional cigarettes have switched to e-cigs as a healthier alternative but what if they aren’t healthy at all?  If that’s the case, there are a lot of people that are under the illusion that their health is improving when it actually isn’t.The tests being talked about were run in Japan. Their National Institute for Public Health conducted studies and found both formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in the vapor of several types of e-cigs.  The country’s health ministry commissioned the study and tested multiple brands. According to the report, the amount of formaldehyde in one brand was ten times greater than what was produced by a traditional cigarette.  The point of the study was to determine if there were any carcinogens in the vapor produced by electronic cigarettes and the answer is yes. Japan is now going to decide whether or not they will regulate electronic cigarettes, and they are conducting studies to test the ultimate results of using these products.  Since they are still fairly new, it is likely that many of the health risks won’t be known for some time.In the United States, this is a concern, in part, due to the number of young people that are using e-cigs.  From 2011 to 2013 the number of youth that tried e-cigs tripled.  As a dentist, this is alarming.  The anti-smoking campaigns have done a good job at reducing the number of people that smoke overall, and we know that a reduction in smoking leads to a reduction in oral health problems including cancer.  However, if more and more young people are using electronic cigarettes, this can lead to further health risks for them down the road.  If it is being sold, it needs to be sold as an alternative to smoking that also has its own set of risks similar to chewing tobacco. As the Japanese have found, stating that it is healthy, is simply incorrect as no one can claim that formaldehyde is good for you.There are health professionals that claim that electronic cigarettes are beneficial for those who do smoke. This may be the case if they are strictly used by people that are already smoking cigarettes.  For example, if you smoke a pack of traditional cigarettes and switch to an electronic version, you are very likely eliminating some of the carcinogens.  However, for adults and teens that do not currently smoke, this is a dangerous gateway that has problems of its own.  If you smoke, chew tobacco, or use an e-cig, be aware that you probably have a higher risk of getting oral cancer.  With that in mind, you should be diligent with having annual dental exams and oral cancer screenings, something we can help you at our dental office.

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