One dire warning against vaping that pops up again and again is particulate matter measured in the vapor. And that particulate matter is known to be dangerous. But what is really behind that scientific sounding scarecrow?
Both statements are individually true. The problem is in the implied connection. It would be equally true but equally misleading to state:
When taking a hot shower you are exposed to huge amounts of particulate matter. Most of these particles are very fine and can thus infiltrate deep into the lung. They even consist mostly of DHMO. Inhaling particulate matter is know to be dangerous to your health.
Solid Particulate Matter!
When ordinary people hear and read about “particulate matter” it’s usually in the context of tiny solid nasties. Some even carcinogenic. Like diesel soot, asbestos fibers, coal dust, and of course smoke. In German this association is even more firmly entrenched. Here the term is “Feinstaub”, literally “fine dust”. The smaller these agents of destruction are, the deeper they infiltrate the lungs, take up permanent lodging, and wreak their havoc. It’s the bad stuff you can see turning filter pads a sickly brown.
Liquid Particulate Matter?
We almost never heard it mentioned when people talk about fog (real or theatrical), steam (cooking or sauna) or the aerosol of medical inhalers. Not even tiny droplets of fatty oils are normally called “particulate matter”. And they can create a serious health problem called “lipoid pneumonia” when too much is inhaled. But still that also counts as particulate matter.
Technically speaking, that actually is all that matters. When the scientific talk is about measuring the density of particulate matter in the air it’s about the number of particles of different sizes. That’s all. It doesn’t say anything about the composition or physical, biological, or chemical properties of these particles. It doesn’t matter whether they are solid or liquid.
Well, of course you can measure the density of particulate matter in vapor. But all these number tell you is the density and sizes of the droplets. What happens when these tiny droplet enter deep into the lung? Nothing much! Everything is water solvable and gets absorbed. No residue builds up. No carcinogens. Nothing remotely like the solid particulate matter e.g. in smoke.
If some so-called “experts” talk about the p. m. of vapor and that p. m. of that size is especially dangerous, you know that they are totally ignorant and have no clue, what they are talking about. Or they are deliberately misleading (aka lying). Everything else they utter is bound to be suspicious, too.
Whenever claims like these pop up, ask for the scientific studies these are based on and demand to see the list of constituents of the particulate matter.
When you search pubmed for pm and health effects you get lots of studies. But the vast majority usually deal with the urban air pollution. Not at all comparable to the composition of vapor.
One interesting meta study that popped up is:
Current Methods and Challenges for Epidemiological Studies of the Associations Between Chemical Constituents of Particulate Matter and Health
Some cigalike’s vapor constituents compared with smoke:
Comparison of select analytes in aerosol from e-cigarettes with smoke from conventional cigarettes and with ambient air
I couldn’t find any articles directly evaluating the health effects of the specific particulate matter (VG, PG, water droplets) of vapor. Just the usual ominous, but useless hints at the mere presence of “ultra fine particles”.
Global Forum Nicotine 2016
Dainius Martuzevicius: Exhaled aerosol particles e-cigs & cigarettes
Carl V Phillips: What is wrong with ecig particulate claims – the simple version