E-cigarettes emit very high formaldehyde levels only in conditions that are aversive to users: A replication study under verified realistic use conditions

Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Nov;109(Pt 1):90-94. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.08.044. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Purpose: In 2015, a study identified 5-15-fold higher levels of formaldehyde emissions from an old-generation e-cigarette tested at 5.0 V compared to tobacco cigarettes. We set to replicate this study using the same e-cigarette equipment and e-liquid, while checking for the generation of dry puffs.

Design: Experienced e-cigarette users (n = 26) took 4 s puffs at different voltage settings and were asked to report the generation of dry puffs. Formaldehyde emissions were measured at both realistic and dry puff conditions.

Results: Dry puffs were detected at ≤4.2 V by 88% of participants; thus, 4.0 V was defined as the upper limit of realistic use. Levels ranged from 3.4 (SE = 2.2) μg/10 puffs at 3.3 V to 718.2 (SE = 58.2) μg/10 puffs at 5.0 V. The levels detected at 4.0 V were 19.8 (SE = 5.6) μg/10 puffs. At 4.0 V, the daily exposure to formaldehyde from consuming 3 g of liquid with the device tested would be 32% lower compared to smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes.

Conclusions: The high levels of formaldehyde emissions that were reported in a previous study were caused by unrealistic use conditions that create the unpleasant taste of dry puffs to e-cigarette users and are thus avoided.

Keywords: Aerosol; Dry puff; Electronic cigarette; Formaldehyde; Smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems
  • Female
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects*
  • Formaldehyde / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking / adverse effects*


  • Formaldehyde