Diacetyl and Acetyl Propynol – A Cause for Concern?
*Note: This article is in no way intended to construe medical advice, but is simply intended as a research starting point for those concerned about the contents of the e-liquid they consume.*
You may have heard the terms before – Diacetyl and AP (Acetyl Propynol), and heard horrors about the dastardly things they can do when vaped. But perhaps you're wondering what risk they really pose – after all, isn't vaping supposed to be a better alternative than using tobacco products? If so, what problem do these chemicals really pose?
As with virtually everything in the vape world, there's no clear answer at this point. But there are two harshly divided camps – the "hey, at least I'm not smoking" group and the "I quit tobacco to avoid bad stuff, so I don't want it in my vape!" battalion. While we won't attempt to tell you which side is the one to choose here, we will attempt to dispel some myths and break things down into a user-friendly format. Let's go!
First, what the heck is Diacetyl, anyway?
In the simplest sense, it's a chemical compound that adds creamy or buttery flavors to food (and e-juice). It's present in a host of processed foods (if you eat junk food of any sort, you're probably already consuming it on a daily basis), and likewise in many cream-or-butter-flavored vapes – if the juice maker isn't publicly disclosing their ingredient list or specifically advertising their mix as Diacetyl-free, it's safe to say you're consuming some if you're a bakery or dessert vape aficionado.
Okay, seems harmless enough. Why be scared?
The compounds in question have been linked to a rare, but still scary, disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or "popcorn lung" in common nomenclature. It's named because virtually all known cases of the disease have occurred in employees of chemical factories, particularly microwave popcorn manufacturing plants, where literal tons of Diacetyl are used on a daily basis to create the fake "butter" flavor that goes into virtually every instant popcorn product in the nation. The disease causes scarring of the lung tissue, shortness of breath, and wheezy, dry coughing, and is thought at this point to be irreversible.
Holy sheepstuff! I don't want that!
Here's the thing – despite Diacetyl being common in consumer products for decades, there's only a single known case of the disease in the general public – it involves a Denver man who habitually consumed several bags of microwave popcorn daily for years. Tens of millions of Americans have been exposed to Diacetyl, and to date there's only one reported illness directly linked to the chemical.
Whew! I'm feeling better.
Good, we don't want you to go off the deep end. But that's not to say there's empirical proof that Diacetyl isn't risky. Remember, vaping hasn't even been around for a decade, and only in the last 2-3 years has it gained any mainstream popularity. All previous cases of popcorn lung have involved individuals inhaling extremely heavy doses of Diacetyl for prolonged periods (and in once case an individual eating an insane amount of it). No testing has been done on the molecule when it's heated to the point of vaporization, as flavor extract manufacturers generally didn't design their products with vaping in mind (Italy's Flavour Art is one exception, but most commercial juice makers don't disclose where they're buying their extracts). There's certainly a chance, though evidence to date supports the conclusion that chance is relatively small, that Diacetyl inhalation could lead to lung problems down the road – though keep in mind that there's absolutely no doubt smoked tobacco will do the same (and most tobacco products contain Diacetyl at an order of magnitude higher than even the "dirtiest" vape juices).
Okay, I'm confused again. Is this stuff okay or not?We're really not sure. Like everything else in the vape world, this is a choice you've got to make for yourself. We at Breazy firmly believe that choosing to vape instead of use tobacco products of any sort is a wise decision, though we'll also readily point out that inhaling anything that isn't clean air (and that includes the air in the cities where most of us live and work) is worse than the former.
If you want to reduce your risk, check with your favorite liquid manufacturer to see if they offer test results on the chemical content of their juices. If they don't, encourage them to obtain independent lab testing and post the results publicly! If you're vaping a liquid that you know or suspect may contain Diacetyl or other undesirable compounds, consider limiting your use of that product and subbing in other flavors.