E-cigarettes can emit formaldehyde at high levels under conditions that have been reported to be non-averse to users

Sci Rep. 2018 May 15;8(1):7559. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25907-6.


E-cigarette aerosol emission studies typically focus on benchmarking toxicant levels versus those of cigarettes. However, such studies do not fully account for the distinct chemical makeup of e-liquids and their unique properties. These approaches often conclude that there are fewer and lower levels of toxins produced by e-cigarettes than by cigarettes. In 2015, we reported the discovery of new hemiacetals derived from the reaction of formaldehyde and the e-liquid solvents. The main finding was that they constituted a significant proportion of potentially undetected formaldehyde. Moreover, unlike gaseous formaldehyde, the hemiacetals reside in the aerosol particulate phase, and thus are capable of delivering formaldehyde more deeply into the lungs. However, the findings were criticized by those claiming that some of the results were obtained under conditions that are averse to vapers. A "reinvestigation" of our study was recently published addressing this latter issue. However, this reinvestigation ignored major details, including no mention of the formaldehyde hemiacetals. Herein, we isolated both gaseous formaldehyde and formaldehyde hemiacetals at an intermediate power level claimed, in the "reinvestigation", to be relevant to "non-averse," "normal" usage. The results were that both gaseous formaldehyde and formaldehyde from hemiacetals were produced at levels above OSHA workplace limits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetals / isolation & purification*
  • Acetals / toxicity
  • Aerosols / isolation & purification*
  • Aerosols / toxicity
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems
  • Formaldehyde / isolation & purification*
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy


  • Acetals
  • Aerosols
  • Formaldehyde