Harvard Study: Nearly 50 Percent of JUULpods Contain Lung Toxin

A new study from Harvard University researchers revealed that some JUULpods contain the toxic substance glucan, which can lead to lung damage in cases of long-term exposure. This only adds to the ever-growing list of health risks of vaping — a list that includes permanent disability and death.

New Harvard Study Highlights Dangers of Juuling

National headlines have highlighted the dangerous link between vaping and deadly lung damage. In December 2019, Harvard joined this growing chorus after studying the effects of products sold by JUUL, one of the world’s most famous vape companies.

A study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that 46% of JUUL’s refillable vape cartridges — called JUULpods — were contaminated with a dangerous toxin called glucan, a fungus that harms the lungs.

Yet this is not the only health risk associated with vaping. The dangerous habit — introduced as a “safer alternative” to cigarettes — has been linked to several life-threatening health issues.

These health issues include:

  • Childhood nicotine addiction
  • Exploding vape batteries, causing broken bones, burns, and scars
  • Lung and respiratory system damage
  • Pneumonia or other lung illnesses
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Sadly, teenagers are at a higher risk of these health issues since companies like JUUL allegedly marketed their products toward a younger crowd — including those who were too young to buy e-cigarettes.

This controversy prompted a public outcry from concerned parents, causing JUUL to delete several of its social media accounts and discontinue all fruit-flavored JUULpods.

Still, vaping remains highly popular among young people and anyone who vapes still could be at risk of injury, illness or death.

Further – as the Harvard study reveals — new health risks are being discovered at an alarming rate.

What Is Glucan?

Glucan is a microbial toxin found in the cell walls of funguses, algae, and plants. According to David Christiani, one of the Harvard study’s co-authors, chronic exposure to glucan can lead to inflammation and long-term damage to the airways and lungs.

The following flavors of JUULpods all tested positive for Glucan:

  • Creme
  • Cucumber
  • Fruit
  • Mango
  • Menthol
  • Tobacco

Menthol and tobacco JUULpods had much higher levels of glucan than the other flavors listed above. Yet these are the only JUULpod flavors still on the market as of 2020.

Christiani also noted that the glucan found in JUULpods is not linked to the recent outbreak of vape illness and deaths at this time.

That outbreak has instead been strongly linked to vitamin E-acetate, an additive found in some vape products containing THC, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That said, since glucan can damage the airways and lungs, it still poses a threat to those who use JUULs or other e-cigarettes.

Harvard’s Latest Study Reinforces Dangers of JUUL

The Harvard study strengthens previous findings by researchers looking into the dangers of JUULing.

For example, an April 2019 study on e-cigarettes found that 81% of vape cartridges or similar products had glucan levels above the set limits of detection.

A 2017 Harvard study also found that e-cigarettes emit just as much nicotine through secondhand exposure as cigarettes — along with dangerous ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds.

These studies served as a lead-up to the full-blown epidemic of vape injuries that began in 2019. These cases linked vaping to life-threatening lung damage.

According to the CDC, over 2,800 people across the U.S. have been hospitalized due to vape-related lung injuries as of February 2020 — and nearly 70 have died.

Research and Public Outcry Leads to FDA Vape Ban

Despite these findings, the e-cigarette industry still wants people to believe that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking. But the high number of injuries — along with studies highlighting the dangers of JUUL and other e-cigarettes — has prompted a nationwide crackdown on the industry.

In late December 2019, a new law raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) from 18 to 21. The law came off the heels of multiple state bans of e-cigarette products earlier in the year.

In particular, JUUL faced a significant backlash for its marketing tactics, which parents and advocates believed encouraged young people to start vaping.

In response, JUUL:

  • Deactivated its Facebook and Instagram profiles
  • Stopped advertising in broadcast, digital, and print mediums in the U.S.
  • Stopped selling all mango, mint, creme, fruit, and cucumber flavored JUULpods

The federal government also passed restrictions on many flavored e-cigarettes in February 2020 — though disposable products are still allowed.

Even with these restrictions, JUUL and other vape products remain dangerous and highly addictive. As of September 2019, nearly 30% of high schoolers use e-cigarettes, according to the FDA. Further, CNN reports that 60% of high schoolers who vape use JUUL.

Parents who believe their child is vaping should take action. The Truth Initiative, a non-profit group that advocates against tobacco and e-cigarettes, recommends that parents learn more about the dangers of JUUL to better explain the risks to children.

From there, parents should talk to their children and provide support to help them quit vaping for good.

Author:Vape Danger Editorial Team
Vape Danger Editorial Team

Vape Danger helps people understand the dangers of vape and e-cigarette products. Vaping devices are marketed as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, vape pens and other devices may cause serious injuries and illnesses. The Vape Danger editorial team provides the latest studies and data to help readers make informed health and legal choices.

Last modified: April 9, 2020