As the world argues about the safety of electronic cigarettes, it’s clear that we need to place a greater emphasis on scientific research. Interestingly, there have been studies done prior to the birth of ecigs that give us a clue as to how vaping impacts the human body. A perfect example of this is a study conducted by Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson of the University of Chicago’s Billings Hospital in 1942. Dr. Robertson studied how the inhalation of propylene glycol impacted laboratory mice.
Propylene glycol is one of the primary ingredients in e-liquid, but even before it was used to make electronic cigarettes, Dr. Robertson was testing its effects by inhalation. He suspected that this powerful ingredient could potentially be helpful for treating respiratory diseases, influenza, and even pneumonia.
To test his theory, he placed groups of mice into two chambers. In the first chamber, he sprayed the air with propylene glycol and then the flu virus. In the second chamber, he sprayed only the flu virus. Surprisingly, all of the mice in the chamber sprayed with propylene glycol survived, whereas the mice exposed only to the flu virus died.
Dr. Robertson concluded, “The propylene glycol itself was a potent germicide. One part of glycol in 2,000,000 parts of air would – within a few seconds – kill concentrations of air-suspended pneumococci, streptococci, and other bacteria numbering millions to the cubic foot.”
So what is this powerful substance known as propylene glycol? It is essentially a synthetic liquid that absorbs water. Today, we use PG in many cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products. It is also used in fog machines and even to generate smoke for fire fighter trainings. The FDA classifies PG as a food and drug additive that is “generally recognized as safe”. It is clear, colorless, and has no taste or odor.
Electronic cigarettes utilize propylene glycol in the e-liquid. When it heats up, it turns into a vapor that the smoker inhales. Looking back at Dr. Robertson’s study from 1942, we see that PG might offer benefits apart from just smoking cessation. It seems that PG could even help keep us healthy and protect against the spread of viruses like the flu.