Effects of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and nicotine on emissions and dynamics of electronic cigarette aerosols

Aerosol Sci Technol. 2020;54(11):1270-1281. doi: 10.1080/02786826.2020.1771270. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


An electronic cigarette (e-cig) generates aerosols by vaporizing the e-liquid, which mainly consists of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and nicotine. Understanding the effects of e-liquid main compositions on e-cig aerosols is important for exposure assessment. This study investigated how the PG/VG ratio and nicotine content affect e-cig aerosol emissions and dynamics. A tank-based e-cig device with 10 different flavorless e-liquid mixtures (e.g., PG/VG ratios of 0/100, 10/90, 30/70, 50/50, and 100/0 with 0.0% or 2.4% nicotine) was used to puff aerosols into a 0.46 m3 stainless steel chamber for 0.5 h. Real-time measurements of particle number concentration (PNC), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and particle size distributions were conducted continuously throughout the puffing and the following 2-h decay period. During the decay period, particle loss rates were determined by a first-order log-linear regression and used to calculate the emission factor. The addition of nicotine in the e-liquid significantly decreased the particle number emission factor by 33%. The PM2.5 emission factor significantly decreased with greater PG content in the e-liquid. For nicotine-free e-liquids, increasing the PG/VG ratio resulted in increased particle loss rates measured by PNC and PM2.5. This pattern was not observed with nicotine in the e-liquids. The particle loss rates, however, were significantly different with and without nicotine especially when the PG/VG ratios were greater than 30/70. Compared with nonvolatile diethyl-hexyl subacute (DEHS) aerosols, e-cig particle concentration decayed faster inside the chamber, presumably due to evaporation. These results have potential implications for assessing human exposure to e-cig aerosols.