A study was recently published in the journal PLoS One, titled: “Benzene formation in e-cigarettes”. In what should be considered very fashionable in e-cigarette research, it was accompanied by a press statement discussing about the huge risks associated with benzene exposure from e-cigarettes. It is very interesting to once again see the inconsistency between the study findings and the press statement.
First of all, the study was performed based on the finding of high levels of benzoic acid in JUUL (about 45 mg/mL or 4.5%). JUUL is a prefilled e-cigarette with very high levels of nicotine (they found 6% nicotine, i.e. 60 mg/mL) which protonates nicotine with the use of acid (benzoic acid). It is unique for JUUL to use so high levels of benzoic acid; the authors mention they tested commercial liquids and found benzoic acid at levels of 0.02-2 mg/mL (0.002-0.2%). Benzoic acid could be transformed to benzene, but the study found NON-DETECTED levels of benzene in JUUL despite the use of 5 seconds puff duration.