Increased use and sales of e-cigarettes raises concerns about the potential environmental impacts throughout their life-cycle. However, few available research studies focus on the environmental impacts and ecotoxicity of e-cigarettes. In this study, we short-list e-liquid chemicals from published literature that should be considered in future environmental impact and risk assessments. We used a combination of available laboratory bioassays-based data and predictive methods (eg, Structure-Activity Relationships) to characterise the hazards of the e-liquid chemicals (environmental persistence, bioaccumulation, and aquatic toxicity including hazardous concentration values (concentration affecting specific proportion of species)) for short-listing.
Of the 421 unique e-liquid chemicals compiled from literature, 35 are US Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous constituents, 42 are US Food and Drug Administration’s harmful or potentially harmful constituents in tobacco products and smoke, and 20 are listed as both. Per hazard characteristics, we short-listed 81 chemicals that should be considered for future environmental impact and risk assessments, including tobacco-specific compounds (eg, nicotine, N’-nitrosonornicotine), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (eg, chrysene), flavours (eg, (-)caryophyllene oxide), metals (eg, lead), phthalates (eg, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) and flame retardants (eg, tris(4-methylphenyl)phosphate).
Our findings documenting various hazardous chemicals in the e-liquids underscore the importance of awareness and education when handling or disposing of e-liquids/e-cigarettes and aim to inform strategies to prevent and reduce hazards from e-cigarettes. This includes any scenario where e-liquids can come into contact with people or the environment during e-liquid storage, manufacturing, use, and disposal practices. Overall, our study characterises the environmental hazards of e-liquid chemicals and provides regulators and researchers a readily available list for future ecological and health risk assessments.