Should E-Cig Users Be Concerned About Diacetyl?

If you are a regular vaper, you will find yourself surrounded by a lot of questions like: Can someone get a popcorn lung by vaping? Should I be concerned about diacetyl? Is it possible that the e-liquid I use might contain diacetyl? Are there any other options if it does?


Concerns about the usage of diacetyl, that give some e-juice flavors the delicious buttery taste, have become prominent after a study carried out at Harvard indicated the usage of this chemical in e-cig flavors. The research and news reporting of this chemical ingredient, used in some e-cig flavors, have sketched a vague picture of the harmful effects this chemical has to offer. While on the other hand, the people involved in the e-cig business tend to exaggerate the potential risks offered by this chemical for their own personal gain. Below is the clear picture of the scenario and all the information you should have before making a viable decision.

What is Diacetyl and why is it used in E-liquids?

This chemical is naturally found in some fruits and is also present in beer and wine because of the fermentation process they go through. It is usually linked with butter flavored microwave popcorn. The FDA generally classifies this chemical as a safe component. Diacetyl is used in e-liquid flavors because it tastes really good. There are a lot of other factors too but the main thing that it adds to the e-liquid is the taste. There are a lot of other options too that can be used to give an e-liquid a smooth buttery taste but usually diacetyl and acetoin are used for this purpose.

One of the famous e-liquid supplier The Perfumer’s Apprentice use alternative chemicals like acetyl propionyl and acetoin instead of diacetyl and they’ve explain the importance of these chemicals with a statement that reads:

“Just like it would be hard to bake a cinnamon cookie with no cinnamon, it would be really hard to create a vanilla custard flavor with no acetoin or acetyl propionyl.”

This statement makes it clear that some flavors become a lot difficult to create without these chemicals.

Risks involving the inhalation of Diacetyl

FDA claims that the ingestion of diacetyl is generally safe but the inhalation of this substance can offer some serious health risks. The first time any complications were noticed because of an exposure to diacetyl were recorded in the 1980s when two men who worked at a bakery flavors manufacturing plant were diagnosed with a serious lung disease. Both of these workers were young and non-smoker, and the cause of their health issue was associated with the use of diacetyl on the plant. Another case was studied in the early 2000s in which workers at a popcorn factory were noticed developing a serious lung infection called bronchiolitis obliterans which was dubbed as “popcorn lungs” by the press.

Bronchiolitis Obliterans, also known as Popcorn Lungs, is a serious illness that after an extensive research was linked to the exposure of buttery flavors and diacetyl in particular. This disease is caused when the small air passages in the lungs called the bronchioles get damaged that result in their inflammation hence blocking the airways. The patients suffering from this disease reported trouble in breathing and dry coughs that kept on getting worse with time. This disease has been noticed to be unresponsive to medication in many cases and in some extreme scenarios the only treatment option for this condition is a lung transplant.

How much Diacetyl is present in the E-liquids?

The workers who were affected by the diacetyl in the popcorn production plant were exposed to 32 ppm (parts per million) level of diacetyl. On the other hand, some workers who were working in the packaging section experienced complications due to an exposure of 2ppm diacetyl. According to a research carried out by Dr. Farsalinos, an average of three quarter of an e-liquid contains diacetyl and the daily intake limit of the chemical suggested 65 micrograms per day.

This amount comes under the limit that NIOSH have suggested but there are still ongoing arguments about how much of diacetyl is safe. As compared to an E-cig, combustible tobacco cigarettes on an average contain 335.9 milligram of diacetyl which becomes an average of 5700 milligrams a day for a whole packet which is a huge figure if compared to total e-cig inhalation of diacetyl that is below 300 milligrams per day.