Experts say the highly concentrated with nicotine liquid, used to refill e-cigarettes can be harmful to adults and even deadly to children if consumed orally. It can also be harmful if absorbed through the skin. The most common adverse health effects are vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.
Liquid nicotine is sold to refill e-cigarettes, the battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals through a vaporizer. The nicotine is typically contained in a cartridge that users insert into the e-cigarette.
E-cigarettes have been already criticized for being attractive to the small children, since many brands come in bright colors, and candy and fruit flavors. The e-liquid is often brightly colored, and comes in candy and fruit flavors such as strawberry, butterscotch, chocolate, apple, blueberry, gummy bear, cotton candy and bubble gum. That attracts young children, who may be unable to read warning labels and do not realize that the liquids could be dangerous.
Recently, researchers found a steady and rapid increase in the number of calls to poison control centers about e-cigarettes and the liquid nicotine used in them, according to the study, released April 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A total of 215 calls involving e-cigarettes were made to U.S. poison control centers in February 2014, up from one call in September 2010, said researchers who examined data from poison centers over that period.
More than half of these calls involved children age 5 and younger, and about 42 percent involved people age 20 and older who were poisoned by ingesting liquid nicotine, or absorbing it through the skin, according to the study.
"Use of these products is skyrocketing, and these poisonings will continue," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden."E-cigarette liquids, as currently sold, are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children."
For the study, researchers examined all calls to poison centers in which callers stated the reason for their call was exposure to conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or nicotine liquid used in e-cigarettes.
Poison centers received 2,405 calls related to e-cigarettes, and 16,248 calls about cigarettes, between September 2010 and February 2014, according to the report.
In September 2010, 0.3 percent of all calls about any cigarettes or liquid nicotine were due to e-cigarettes. By February 2014, the number had jumped, and 41.7 percent of all such calls were due to e-cigarettes, the researchers found.
Poisoning from conventional cigarettes most often involves young children who ate the cigarettes. Poisoning from liquid nicotine can occur not only by ingestion, but also inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes.
In about 70 percent of cases, poisoning from liquid nicotine occurred because a person ingested the chemical. About 17 percent of the cases occurred from inhalation, and about 15 cases reported absorption through the skin or the eye.
The most common adverse health effects mentioned in e-cigarette calls were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation. One suicide death from nicotine liquid was reported to poison centers.
The number of calls per month involving conventional cigarettes did not show an increase during the same time period.
Recently, studies have found e-cigarette use is growing, and is becoming especially popular among teenagers.
Although the Food and Drug Administration has said it intends to regulate the e-cigarette industry, it has been slow to act. In the meantime, critics say, no regulations exist that would force liquid nicotine manufacturers to use child-resistant packaging or detailed warning labels.
Sources and Additional Information: