E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals

Environ Res. 2017 Jan:152:221-225. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.09.026. Epub 2016 Oct 28.


Background and aims: The popularity of electronic cigarette devices is growing worldwide. The health impact of e-cigarette use, however, remains unclear. E-cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes. The aim of this research was the characterization and quantification of toxic metal concentrations in five, nationally popular brands of cig-a-like e-cigarettes.

Methods: We analyzed the cartomizer liquid in 10 cartomizer refills for each of five brands by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Results: All of the tested metals (cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese and nickel) were found in the e-liquids analyzed. Across all analyzed brands, mean (SD) concentrations ranged from 4.89 (0.893) to 1970 (1540) μg/L for lead, 53.9 (6.95) to 2110 (5220) μg/L for chromium and 58.7 (22.4) to 22,600 (24,400) μg/L for nickel. Manganese concentrations ranged from 28.7 (9.79) to 6910.2 (12,200) μg/L. We found marked variability in nickel and chromium concentration within and between brands, which may come from heating elements.

Conclusion: Additional research is needed to evaluate whether e-cigarettes represent a relevant exposure pathway for toxic metals in users.

Keywords: Carcinogens; Electronic nicotine delivery devices; Non-cigarette tobacco products.

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems* / classification
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy