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Electronic cigarettes -- Composition -- Analysis, Commercial products -- Testing, Toxological chemistry, Tobacco products -- Chemistry, Acrolein, Acetaldehyde


The health effects of inhaled electronic cigarette (ecigarette) flavoring compounds are largely unknown. Earlier reports of their chemical reactivity have been conflicting, with some claiming, for example, that the degradation of flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes to aldehydes is statistically insignificant. It is thus important to understand how these molecules react to afford enhanced aerosol products. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the origin of formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetaldehyde in e-cigarettes that contain the popular additive, triacetin (TA). By using 13C labeling and a combination of 1H NMR and 13C NMR, we were able to identify that ester hydrolysis of TA occurs to form acetic acid (HOAc) during aerosolization. The released HOAc acts as a catalyst in the degradation of propylene glycol (PG) and glycerol (GLY), increasing the formation of formaldehyde hemiacetals, acrolein, and acetaldehyde. A solution of 10% TA in 1:1 PG/GLY e-liquid was aerosolized using two different e-cigarettes at two wattages. Each device exhibited a significant increase in aldehyde levels, of up to 185% compared to the aerosol from a 1:1 PG/GLY e-liquid. In addition, the GLY formaldehyde hemiacetal was more predominant within the presence of HOAc, indicating that GLY may be relatively more prone to degradation from protonation.


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