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Bacterial contaminants found in Juul vaping products

Researchers have found that Juul e-cigarette products, particularly tobacco- and menthol-flavored vaping liquids, may be contaminated with microbial toxins, according to data that were to be presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference.

The abstract, which was published in an online supplement of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, adds to previously studied market data for e-cigarettes in the United States conducted by Mi-Sun Lee, PhD, MPH, research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and David Christiani, MD, MPH, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics in the department of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

For the study, Lee and Christiani collected samples from all available individual Juul single-use pod products, which contain nicotine vaping liquid, four times. They tested 54 samples, including 27 that were purchased in May 2019 and 27 purchased in August 2019, for the presence and amount of endotoxins and glucan.

Although endotoxins levels were below the limit of detection, glucans exceeded the limit of detection in 25 products (46%), according to the results. Moreover, when compared with other Juul products, glucan levels were significantly higher in tobacco- and menthol-flavored products. After conducting an analysis that incorporated data from their previous study, Lee and Christiani found that glucan concentrations appeared to be 78 times higher in tobacco-flavored pods and 34 times higher in menthol-flavored pods, as compared with fruit-flavored pods.

“We found that tobacco- and menthol-flavored Juul products were far more contaminated,” Lee said in a press release. “We are particularly concerned because tobacco-flavored Juul products were excluded from the proposed FDA ban. Finding these toxins in nicotine vaping pods adds to the growing evidence of potentially harmful exposures in e-cigarettes.” – by Melissa Foster


Lee M-S, et al. P-801. Presented at: American Thoracic Society International Conference; May 15-20, 2020 (meeting canceled).

Lee M-S, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020;201:A1909.

Disclosures: This study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH. Healio Pulmonology could not confirm the authors’ relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.