Vapes seized from school pupils contain high levels of lead, nickel, chromium and other ‘harmful’ chemicals
Vapes confiscated from school pupils contain high levels of lead, nickel and chromium, BBC News has reported. The used vapes were gathered from Baxter College in Kidderminster which later were tested in a laboratory.
The results showed children using them could be inhaling more than twice the daily safe amount of lead, and nine times the safe amount of nickel. Some vapes also contained harmful chemicals like those in cigarette smoke.
High levels of lead exposure in children can affect the central nervous system and brain development, according to the World Health Organization. The Inter Scientific laboratory, in Liverpool, which works with vape manufacturers to ensure regulatory standards are met, analysed 18 vapes and found most were illegal and had not gone through any testing.
Lab co-founder David Lawson said: "In 15 years of testing, I have never seen lead in a device. None of these should be on the market - they break all the rules on permitted levels of metal. They are the worst set of results I’ve ever seen."
In "highlighter vapes" - designed with bright colours to look like highlighter pens - the amounts of the metals found were lead (12 micrograms per gram, 2.4 times the stipulated safe exposure level), nickel (9.6 times safe levels) and chromium (6.6 times safe levels).
The metals were thought to come from the heating element - but the tests showed they were in the e-liquid itself. The lab tests also discovered carbonyls, which break down when the e-liquid warms up into chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are also found in cigarette smoke, at 10 times the level seen in legal vapes. Some had much more than cigarettes.
Manufacturers have to follow regulations on ingredients, packaging and marketing - and all e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be registered with the Medicine and HealthCare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). But the agency is not required to check the claims made in paperwork and has no power to investigate unregistered products.
MHRA head of e-cigarettes Craig Copland said the results would be reviewed to assess whether the vapes posed a health risk.
How harmful is lead?
He said: "Lead is a neurotoxin and impairs brain development, chrome and nickel are allergens and metal particles in general in the bloodstream can trigger blood clotting and can exacerbate cardiovascular disease.
"The carbonyls are mildly carcinogenic and so with sustained use will increase the risk of cancer - but in legal products, the levels of all of these things is extremely low so the lifetime risk to the individual is extremely small."
But Mr Lawson said there had been a much greater rise in illegal products recently and "some of these are hard to distinguish between the ones which are potentially legal".
The government has allocated £3 million to combat illegal vape sales. It wishes to fund more test purchases, have the products removed from stores, and collect evidence to reduce the number of children who have access to electronic cigarettes.