Roughly 7000 e-cigarette flavors exist in the market to date. You may not know many of these flavors besides the few you would call your favorites but you might have heard of Diacetyl. No one really cared much about flavoring chemicals until the early 2000s when Diacetyl gained some notoriety.
Exposure to Diacetyl through inhalation was found to be the probable cause of bronchiolitis obliterans. The disease has been nicknamed ‘popcorn lung’ and it’s a severe lung disease. So is diacetyl bad for you as a vaper? Well, the answer is pretty far from a YES.
We can only find out the truth about Diacetyl by getting deeper into the topic and fortunately, that’s what you will be finding out in the next few minutes. For the sake of the uninitiated, let’s begin by defining what Diacetyl is.
Diacetyl is a naturally occurring chemical. Besides occurring naturally in the usual foods we eat such as honey, butter, and vinegar, it’s also generated as a byproduct of fermentation. In technical terms, it’s referred to as alpha-diketone or 2,3-butanedione.
Many manufacturers use it in proceed foods as it’s known to add a butter flavor to them. Cultured cream, butter, and buttermilk all partly owe their unique flavor to diacetyl.
In e-cigs, diacetyl is responsible for that cream and buttery taste present in specific e-liquids. Custard, caramel, butterscotch are some of the few flavors that contain diacetyl.
Diacetyl In E-Liquids
A random test done on a specific e-liquid in 2014 to evaluate the presence of diacetyl found it to be around 0.05%. The news led to the discontinuation of the flavor in question (butterscotch) after serious concerns about the use of diacetyl in e-liquids were raised.
According to a research done by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, a reputable vaping researcher, diacetyl was found in sweet e-liquids. But because of the bad things associated with the chemical, you will realize most companies brand the e-liquids as ‘diacetyl free’.
Well, much as you may want to believe that, the truth is it’s hard to especially when there are no independent lab tests to ascertain that. In fact, to date, there are no solid standards for testing e-liquids or rules governing their use.
That aside, here’s a fact you will want to keep in mind: The research by Dr. Farsalinos found diacetyl vape to be safer when used in e-cigarettes as opposed to being inhaled straight from a combustion process. More on this later.
Effects of Diacetyl
You probably are among the dozens of vapers with deep concerns about the science applied in vaping and that is okay. Even before we become too concerned about flavorings, there has always been talk that electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking, a fact supported by quite a number of studies.
We may not be certain about the long-term effects associated with diacetyl vape but what we are 100% sure about is that all ingredients that are utilized in e-cigs are approved by the FDA which means they meet the strictest human consumption standards.
PG (Propylene Glycol) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG) are the two core ingredients used in manufacturing e-liquids and they are FDA approved. Diacetyl which is a flavoring has been listed on FDA’s GRAS list (Generally Regarded as Safe) under food additives. But no official statement has been regarding the safety of inhaling it in vapor form.
Popcorn Lung- Is this a cause for concern?
Popcorn lung, also popularly known as bronchiolitis, increasingly become a huge concern in the 90s when a group of workers based at a microwave popcorn plant began to suffer from it. Excess inhalation of diacetyl was believed to be the leading cause.
But this is yet to be proven beyond doubt. In a report titled “Flavorings-Related Lung Disease” by CDC, they did acknowledge the presence of diacetyl in butter flavoring but also clarified that the workers in a popcorn plant tend to be exposed to multiple materials other than diacetyl.
Further, initial studies done in 6 similar plants weren’t able to conclusively find exposure to diacetyl as a major cause of popcorn lung much less a marker for perhaps other risky elements that led to the disease.
However, the evidence from the report did mention diacetyl as an agent that could cause lung diseases associated to flavorings. Other flavoring agents may also take part in that.
Something else worth mentioning is that the diacetyl that the factory workers did inhale was in the form of powder. Usually, the diacetyl that is utilized in in flavoring microwave popcorn takes the form of powder.
Meanwhile, the only difference between the factory workers and vapers is that no powder is inhaled when vaping and that’s a pretty huge contrast between the two.
So far, no case involving bronchitis has ever been linked to e-cigs. But it’s true that diacetyl exists in most of the known e-liquids according to the research by Dr. Farsalinos. In fact, the main objective of this research was to ascertain the existence of diacetyl in e-liquids.
The research involved a total of 150 e-liquid refills plus concentrate flavorings collected from a total of 36 countries based in Europe. 74.2% of the e-liquids were found to contain traces of diacetyl. Only 60% had a level of diacetyl lower than the set safety limit by NIOSH meaning an estimated 40% had a diacetyl level higher than the recommended safety standard.
After ascertaining the existence, he wanted to find out if the diacetyl was really delivered to the person vaping.
Well, turned out it was and Dr. Farsalionos came to the conclusion that the level of diacetyl in cigarettes (tobacco) was 100 times higher than in e-cigarettes.
Now, this study doesn’t sanctify e-cigarettes but it helps a great deal in putting diacetyl into perspective. It confirms that vaping is a less harmful/safer smoking alternative regardless of whether your e-liquid contains diacetyl or not.
Almost all e-liquids derive their taste out of food flavorings and so it’s obvious that many of the flavors available today contain diacetyl. Even though the risks are pretty much lower for vapers who inhale e-liquids that contain diacetyl, the risks are much higher for factory workers in plants that utilize it.
However, as a vaper, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved in prolonged inhalation of diacetyl. If used in excess then there’s a likely chance it will be to bring harm to the respiratory system.
A good number of e-juice manufacturers do agree with a number of the studies we’ve mentioned. Many are of the opinion that much as there are no conclusive reports linking diacetyl-containing e-liquids to popcorn lung or other severe diseases, it’s only safer if this compound is not added to e-liquids so as to avoid any chances of harm.
It sucks imagining making the switch to e-juices that aren’t flavored for the fear of finding yourself in need of a lung transplant. But that shouldn’t discourage you because I’ll show you the best places to buy diacetyl-free e-juices from.
Where to Buy Diacetyl Free E-Juices
Let’s face it, we all relish those creamy and custard e-juices and yet Dr. Farsalinos’s research did confirm that it’s in these sweet e-juices that diacetyl exists. Should you be scared now? Absolutely not.
Reputable e-liquid companies already know that tests done by those who supply e-liquid flavors to them aren’t really sufficient so they always put in extra effort just to make sure that you have access to independent reports regarding the purity as well as the safety of all their products.
The independent tests are of course done by outside firms and are a true and honest representation of what’s contained in the companys’ e-liquids.
Keep in mind that prolonged inhalation of these e-juices could harm your health so always use them in moderation.
Well, here are the best places where you could get diacetyl-free e-juices from.
Before the era of FDA approved labs, e-liquid blending took place in back alleys. Halo is among the very few companies that turned that around and made the process professional by doing it from well-equipped and professional labs.
Right from that time to date, they have guarded their top sport in this space thanks to their quality e-juices. The company attributes this to use of quality and best ingredients which are diacetyl-free. In fact, the company only makes use of USP grade ingredients.
According to Jason Del Giudice, the company’s spokesperson, they conduct third-party tests for not just Diacetyl but also Acetyl and other compounds such as Nitrosamines, arsenic, cadmium and Acetoin.
Even though their e-liquid lineup is relatively small, they do offer a couple of sweet flavors such as Malibu, Shamrock, and Belgian cocoa.
Right from the start, VaporFi has always been open about all the phases involved in the production of their e-liquids. First, they blend their products in a lab approved by the FDA, not to mention that they have also filed all their e-juice recipes with the FDA. You can check out their website to see independent lab reports for their e-liquids.
Andres Gomez, a spokesman for VaporFi, did verify that all their three major lines: Premium, Reserve as well as the Grand Reserve lines are but 100% clean and that if you need proof, just check out the results from the independent lab tests available on their website.
But that’s not all about VaporFi. The company did come up with an innovative feature for their customers. It involves one creating their own e-liquid recipes online. After selecting your preferred flavors plus ratios, they will blend and send you the product.
DirectVapor is really popular amongst vapers and it’s for good reasons. E-liquids are part of their huge range of vaping products and they source it from reputable e-juice companies such as Space Jam.
Just to show much they value e-liquid safety, the company is extremely transparent when it comes disclosing all the important information you will ever want to know about their e-liquids.
Besides having complete disclosure on acetyl propionyl, the company clearly states on their website that all of their e-liquids are always diacetyl-free.
What’s really unique about BlackNote is that they don’t utilize any flavor additives in their e-liquids. Instead, all e-liquids made by them only contain tobacco flavors and this is done through a process they call N.E.T (Naturally Extracted Tobacco).
Usually, they extract the tobacco flavors over a period of about 6-8 weeks through cold maceration, a natural process that is without any outside disruption.
On their website, you will find a complete and independent lab report for all their e-liquids. With such transparency, there’s very little to doubt about the purity and safety of their e-juices.
Firebrand America has earned much of its reputation and fame from the use of sophisticated labs, three-tier filtration system, and fully certified pure nicotine.
All of their product lines are subjected to independent and extensive third party lab testing. Should the result be positive, those that can’t be reformulated are usually eliminated from their product lines while those with slight traces will bear a warning, leaving the consumer to make the choice.
The company’s top selling flavors namely Gold, Tobacco, Carnivale and Arctic Ice have all been confirmed to be diacetyl free.
Each of the companies we’ve mentioned utilizes only pharmaceutical grade VG and PG. Even the nicotine used is 100% pure. Seeing that they put consumer safety first by availing all the important information you will ever need to know about their products, you can trust in them to offer products that meet human consumption standards and are without any harm.
To sum up everything, all the studies we’ve mentioned all point to the fact that most e-liquids contain diacetyl. However, there still doesn’t exist any solid or documented case that links popcorn cancer to smoking or vaping.
But it’s a fact that one is exposed to higher amounts of diacetyl through smoking than when they use e-cigarettes. So for those who still doubt the safety of using e-cigarettes, this is one perfect example you will want to keep in mind.
And for those who had been wondering just where can one get diacetyl free e juice and from which manufacturers, our short no-diacetyl e juice list has you covered. You can trust each of those companies to only offer you products that are safe and without any harm.
Check out our Best Vape Stores article for more information for great places to get e-juice and vaping products online safely.