We created a scientific anti-vaping campaign based on the harmful effects of inhaling PM2.5 particles in e-cigarette “smoke.” Since these ultra-fine particles associated with lung cancer, black lung, and other respiratory diseases, the EPA warns that the daily PM2.5 concentration should not exceed 35µg/m3. The WHO sets an even stricter limit of 10µg/m3. Unfortunately, we found vape smoke is so dense that the concentration cannot be measured directly using common PM2.5 detectors. We, therefore, had to develop an innovative method to make these measurements. Diluting the smoke, we were able to determine PM2.5 concentrations in the range of 17,000,000 µg/m3, some 500,000 and 1,700,000 times of the EPA and WHO daily limits, respectively. This equates to inhaling more PM2.5 in just one puff than the EPA or WHO recommends for the entire day. Most users take many puffs so the amount of PM2.5 they inhale far exceeds any safe limit. These PM2.5 are carriers of harmful chemicals penetrating deep into the lungs. The discovery of insoluble residues on the wall of the lung model leads to the hypothesis of possible permanent damage to the lungs from long vaping exposure.
Vaping Literally Takes Your Breath Away! So, Stop Vaping!
What is PM2.5?
We all want to breath clean air. One pollutant of serious concern is “PM2.5” that stands for particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size. PM2.5 is important because particles of this size can penetrate deep into the lungs. Lung cancer from cigarettes, black lung, asthma and “popcorn” lung are some of the respiratory diseases associated with PM2.5 inhalation.
Around the world, people try their best to avoid breathing in PM2.5 by wearing masks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits PM2.5 daily exposure concentration to 35 µg/m3. The World Health Organization (WHO) exposure limit is even more strict with a daily concentration limit of 10 µg/m3.
Without a doubt, we are facing a vaping crisis and epidemic.
- As of 11/5/19, the CDC reported 2000+ lung illnesses and 40+ deaths related to vaping.
- NYT 11/13/19 “Facing ‘Certain Death,’ Teenager with Vaping Injury Gets Double Lung Transplant.”
- There was a 78% increase in vaping among high school students and a 48% increase among middle school students.
In this project, we want to tackle the vaping problem by creating a scientific data based anti-vaping campaign.
E-cigarette vaping creates a thick cloud of “smoke.” We asked, “what is the concentration of PM2.5 in this smoke?”
1. A lung model of 5L normal lung capacity with 3D printed trachea and two primary descending bronchi was built to simulate the vaping smoke entering the lung. We used a 50 ml syringe to capture a normal inhaled puff of the vaping smoke and then immediately injected through the trachea.
2. While making the simulation, we noticed that the puffs leave residues on the Plexiglas wall that could not be cleaned by water, ethanol, Windex or lens cleaner!
3. We also found the PM2.5 concentrations in the simulation setting were well beyond the measurable range of a laser-based light scattering detector.
4. A dilution technique, therefore, was used to overcome this problem - A small sample of smoke was injected into a large chamber. We were only then able to measure concentrations in the range of a PM2.5 detector.
5. From the detector reading and the ratio of the chamber volume to the sample volume, we could then determine the PM2.5 concentrations in the smoke sample.
6. 16 runs were done to eliminate random experimental errors.
- This study revealed that stunningly high concentration of PM2.5 particulates as 17,000,000 µg/m3 that is 500,000 and 1,700,000 times the EPA (35 µg/m3) and the WHO (10 µg/m3) daily concentration limits.
- This equates to inhaling more PM2.5 particles in just one puff than the EPA recommends for the entire day.
- A user may take some 200 puffs a day. The amount of inhaled PM2.5, therefore, far exceeds any safe inhalation limit. These PM2.5 particulates carry harmful chemicals penetrating deep into the lung.
- The discovery of insoluble residues on the wall of the lung model leads to the hypothesis of possible permanent damage to the lungs from long vaping exposure.
Carina Trama (Team Leader), Xun Zhang, Alex Jerdee, Alex Cho, Eddie O’Keefe
Advisors: Dr. Hsuan Lillian Labowsky, Mr. James Kay, Mr. John Wohner
Professor Yong Shi of Mechanical Engineering Department, Stevens Institute of Technology.
Dr. Michael Labowsky, co-inventor of Electrospray Mass Spectrometer
Check out the Anti Vaping PM2.5 Campaign Video!!