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How dangerous are the e-liquids on the German market?

31/2020, 28.09.2020

After deaths in USA: The BfR and investigative officials test the ingredi-ents in electronic cigarettes for risky vitamin E compounds

In 2019, serious pneumonia and death occurred in the United States after inhaling vapour from electronic (e)-cigarettes (“vaping”). Oily vitamin E acetate is suspected of causing lung damage. It was added to the liquid to be vaporised (“e-liquid”). The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), together with the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Offices (CVUAs) Karlsruhe and Sigmaringen, checked a sample of 57 e-liquids from the German market and from international online shops for vitamin E acetate and other compounds. The result: Only one product contained very small amounts of vitamin E acetate, and is not expected to have any health effects. “This result suggests that e-liquids that comply with German regulations do not pose a risk from vitamin E acetate,” says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “Therefore, this means it makes even more sense not to mix e-liquids yourself and hence run the risk of consequences to health.”

Nicotine-containing and nicotine-free e-liquids were tested for vitamin E acetate, vitamin E, various aromatic substances as well as for Δ9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two cannabinoids obtained from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Only traces of vitamin E that were unproblematic in terms of health were identified. THC was detected in a total of 20 samples, nine of which were in concentrations that did not pose a health problem, while eleven samples were flagged due to an increased THC content. Further investigations are planned on this.

The BfR and CVUA Sigmaringen developed new methods to detect vitamin E and vitamin E acetate in e-liquids especially for these trials. They make it possible to detect even very small traces of these substances. CVUA Karlsruhe developed a new detection method for THC, CBD and related substances.

From the point of view of the BfR, internationally standardised detection methods for the ingredients of e-liquids should be established because of possible health impairments caused by “vaping”. The current results represent an important step in this direction, the newly developed methods can serve well worldwide. The BfR and CVUAs are already working on the detection of other ingredients in e-liquids such as flavours.  

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states (“Laender”) on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.



Date Title Size
Determination of Vitamin E and Vitamin E Acetate in E-liquids Using LC-MS/MS 839.6 KB


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