The association of e-cigarette use with exposure to nickel and chromium: A preliminary study of non-invasive biomarkers

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Abstract

Background:

Nickel (Ni) and chromium (Cr) are components of e-cigarette heating coils. Whether e-cigarettes increase metal internal dose, however, is unknown. We assessed the association of e-cigarette use patterns and of e-liquid and aerosol metal concentrations with Ni and Cr biomarker levels in e-cigarette users from Maryland.

Methods:

We recruited 64 e-cigarette users from December 2015 to March 2016. We collected urine, saliva, and exhaled breath condensate (EBC), data on e-cigarette use, and samples from their e-cigarette device (dispenser e-liquid, aerosol, and tank e-liquid).

Results:

Median Ni and Cr levels were 0.73 and 0.39 μg/g creatinine in urine, 2.25 and 1.53 μg/L in saliva, and 1.25 and 0.29 μg/L in EBC. In adjusted models, tertiles 2 and 3 of aerosol Ni concentrations were associated with 16% and 72% higher urine Ni and 202% and 321% higher saliva Ni compared to the lowest tertile. Tertile 3 of aerosol Cr levels were associated with 193% higher saliva Cr. An earlier time to first vape in the morning and more frequent coil change were associated with higher urine Ni. Tertile 2 of e-liquid consumption per week and voltage were associated with higher saliva Ni levels than tertile 1.

Conclusion:

Positive associations of Ni and Cr aerosol concentrations with corresponding Ni and Cr biomarker levels indicate e-cigarette emissions increase metal internal dose. Increased e-cigarette use and consumption were also associated with higher Ni biomarker levels. Metal level standards are needed to prevent involuntary metal exposure among e-cigarette users.

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