Daily exposure to formaldehyde and acetaldehyde and potential health risk associated with use of high and low nicotine e-liquid concentrations

Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 16;10(1):6546. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-63292-1.


Recent evidence suggests that e-cigarette users tend to change their puffing behaviors when using e-liquids with reduced nicotine concentrations by taking longer and more frequent puffs. Using puffing regimens modelled on puffing topography data from 19 experienced e-cigarette users who switched between 18 and 6 mg/mL e-liquids with and without power adjustments, differences in daily exposure to carbonyl compounds and estimated changes in cancer risk were assessed by production of aerosols generated using a smoking machine and analyzed using gas and liquid chromatography. Significant differences across conditions were found for formaldehyde and acetaldehyde (p < 0.01). Switching from a higher to a lower nicotine concentration was associated with greater exposure regardless of whether power settings were fixed or adjustable which is likely due to increased liquid consumption under lower nicotine concentration settings. Daily exposure for formaldehyde and acetaldehyde was higher for 17/19 participants when using low (6 mg/mL) compared with high (18 mg/mL) nicotine e-liquid concentration when power was fixed. When power adjustments were permitted, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde levels were higher respectively for 16/19 and 14/19 participants with the use of 6 compared with 18 mg/mL nicotine e-liquid.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaldehyde / analysis*
  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Formaldehyde / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Risk Factors


  • Aerosols
  • Carcinogens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Nicotine
  • Acetaldehyde