Shane Brooks’s insight:

Hey, don’t go shooting the messenger now.  I’m just a guy asking questions here.  With all of the recent anti-science propaganda being regurgitated by an irresponsible media, I thought it was time to ask a few basic questions–maybe provoke a serious in-depth honest discussion or two.

So just how dangerous is vaping on eCigs or Personal Vape Devices anyway?  Perhaps we should be comparing it to the dangers of taking hot showers and yearly bathtub deaths to get an idea.

A study from the University of Colorado raises concerns about pathogens and pulmonary disease from the use of shower heads.  That’s right, shower heads.

“The researchers used high-tech instruments and lab methods to analyze roughly 50 shower heads from nine cities in seven states that included New York City, Chicago and Denver.

They concluded about 30 percent of the devices harbored significant levels of Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen linked to pulmonary disease that most often infects people with compromised immune systems but which can occasionally infect healthy people, said CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Norman Pace, lead study author.

It’s not surprising to find pathogens in municipal waters, said Pace. But the CU-Boulder researchers found that some M. avium and related pathogens were clumped together in slimy “biofilms” that clung to the inside of showerheads at more than 100 times the “background” levels of municipal water.

“If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy,” he said.

The study appeared in the Sept. 14 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors of the study included CU-Boulder researchers Leah Feazel, Laura Baumgartner, Kristen Peterson and Daniel Frank and University Colorado Denver pediatrics department Associate Professor Kirk Harris.

The study is part of a larger effort by Pace and his colleagues to assess the microbiology of indoor environments and was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Research at National Jewish Hospital in Denver indicates that increases in pulmonary infections in the United States in recent decades from so-called “non-tuberculosis” mycobacteria species like M. avium may be linked to people taking more showers and fewer baths, said Pace.

Water spurting from shower heads can distribute pathogen-filled droplets that suspend themselves in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs, he said.

Symptoms of pulmonary disease caused by M. avium can include tiredness, a persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness and “generally feeling bad,” said Pace.

Immune-compromised people like pregnant women, the elderly and those who are fighting off other diseases are more prone to experience such symptoms, said Pace, a professor in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department.

The CU-Boulder researchers sampled shower heads in homes, apartment buildings and public places in New York, Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee and North Dakota.”

Wow.  What ever will we do about the children?!  

Let’s take a look at some findings concerning possible negative health effects of just taking a hot shower or bath in general.

 “A Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh claims that exposure to vaporized chemicals in the water supplies through showering, bating, and inhalation is 100 times greater than through drinking the water.”

“As chlorine is added to kill pathogenic microorganisms, the highly reactive chlorine combines with fatty acids and carbon fragments to form a variety of toxic compounds, which comprise about 30% of the chlorination by-products.”

“During the mid-1970s, monitoring efforts began to identify widespread toxic contamination of the nation’s drinking water supplies, epidemiological studies began to suggest a link between ingestion of toxic chemicals in the water and elevated cancer mortality risks. Since those studies were completed, a variety of additional studies have strengthened the statistical connection between consumption of toxins in water and elevated cancer risks. Moreover, this basic concern has been heightened by other research discoveries.” — The Nader Report — Troubled Waters On Tap: Center for Study of Responsive Law.

 “The national Academy of Scientists states that people die in the United States each year form cancers caused by ingesting the contaminants in water. The major health threat posed by these pollutants is far more likely to be from their inhalation as air pollutants. The reason that emissions are high is that water droplets dispersed by the shower head have a larger surface-to-volume ratio than water streaming into the bath.” — Science News, Vol, 130: Janet Raloff

“A long, hot shower can be dangerous. The toxic chemicals are inhaled in high concentrations.” — Bottom Line August 87: Dr. Julian Andeiman, Ph.D.

 “Skin adsorption of contaminants has been underestimated and ingestion may not constitiute the sole or even primary route of exposure.” — American Journal of Public Health: Dr. Halina Brown

“Cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.” — U.S. Council of Environmental Quality

Well, I do say–that’s incredibly alarming.  Media, y u no report?

Just how safe are our nations bathtubs and showers?

A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission has revealed the following.

“One of the most significant findings in the report is that children under five years old, while comprising only 8.5 percent of the total U.S. population, account for almost 30 percent of the 110,000 annual bathtub and shower-related accidents.

Over 75 percent of all bathtub and shower-related fatalities occur among children under five and 90 percent of the injuries and deaths occur when these young children are not being supervised by a responsible adult.

The study identifies three major hazards associated with bathtubs and showers — slips and falls, burns and drownings — and makes specific recommendations to consumers and manufacturers to meet those hazards.

Slips and falls in bathtubs and showers were found to be the most frequent type of accident. Burns from scalding water were less common, but generally much more serious, resulting in over 70 deaths each year. In addition, over 100 people drown every year in bathtubs.”

So I’ll ask again, is vaping on an eCig or personal vaping device safer than taking a hot shower or bath in America?  If you think this piece is utterly ridiculous, you’re damn right it is.  Don’t even get me started on the poor kitty that’s pictured, I’m so pissed off right now. 

Agent CCP13
Anon Vapes 

Is Vaping on an eCig Safer Than Taking a Shower?
Source: Electronic Cigarette News

Shane Brooks’s insight:

Money’s a crazy thing, and you know what they say about good intentions.

Back in the nineties, for those of you who don’t remember, the anti-smoking crusade was truly hitting its stride. Multiple states sued major tobacco companies, partially to recoup costs to health systems caused by smoking, partially to punish those companies for fraudulently selling products known to be addictive and harmful, and partially to impose the local emergent morality since smoking itself, even if taken up voluntarily, was (and still often is) seen as a personal failing that made one a bad person.

It was unfeasible to go after smokers directly, however, since they were also victims in this situation, so the idea was to get the truly culpable parties to pay out. This is, of course, fair and proper; those companies were indeed fraudulently selling products that they knew were harmful yet lied and said they weren’t, that they knew were addictive but offered no fair assessment of their risks, and their fraud had indeed stressed the American healthcare system and led to at least hundreds of thousands of premature deaths over decades.

As befitted the righteous, they were blessed with victory: the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, in which the major tobacco companies would stop fraudulent advertising practices, pay for anti-smoking advocacy groups, and dissolve pro-smoking advocacy groups. All of this was quite fair and has indeed paid off handsomely, and no fault can be found in it.

Those were all sidebars to the Settlement, however. They certainly didn’t get the headlines. The real victory, the real payoff, was quite literal: the major companies had to pay, in perpetuity, the governments of 46 states. While termed a settlement–mostly since it meant the companies were from that point on no longer liable for the harm caused by their products–this payment was, and is, surely equivalent to compensatory and punitive damages to the tune of at least 6 billion.

Let’s put that out there again, since text is a poor medium for sufficient emphasis: two-hundred-six-billion–that is two-hundred-six with nine zeroes–dollars American. That is a lot of money, and at the time (and still now) it was considered a triumph of justice. The bad guys were forced, are forced, to pay the good guys a princely sum. Combined with improved education, smoking as a social ill could be stamped out forever and people could live free and happy without risk (from this particular source).

In and of itself, this was not a bad thing. It would be silly to suggest otherwise. Every district attorney involved probably did have the public’s best interests at heart and was striving to do the right thing. They did, in the end, do the right thing. It wasn’t really their fault that the law of unintended consequences was waiting in the wings for its own opportunity to come into play.

As, of course, it did.

State governments being what they are in our country–slightly corrupt, slightly incompetent collections of populists, blowhards, and snake-charmers willing to offer voters everything for nothing–they took this windfall of a steady paycheck and promptly leveraged it on the market in state bonds. Bonds, for those of you not fully versed in financial markets, are fixed-term loans: I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

This is again pretty normal, and a common way for governments to fund infrastructure projects and the like without increasing taxes, though it does have a bad tendency to just become a debt crisis since bonds issued by one government unwilling to raise taxes to pay for unfunded projects have to be paid off by a later one that is at least equally unwilling to raise taxes to pay for outstanding debts. Anyway, most of these bonds are not particularly specific as to how they will be funded: suffice to say, the government will pay the bondholders back from somewhere.

Not so with the tobacco money. The states figured that, since they had a regular paycheck, they could issue bonds directly tied to the tobacco money. Buy this debt, we’ll build our bridges and pay our teachers and maintain our roads, and we’ll pay you with tobacco settlement money when the bond comes to fruition. It was a cast-iron, absolutely foolproof hustle. A triumph for the free market and our (vaguely) representative form of government.

You also know what they say about what’ll happen if anything comes along that’s foolproof.

Maybe you’ve already spotted the issue, if you’re clever, but like Agatha Christie, I’ve left out a little detail: while there was certainly a minimum-over-a-quarter-century specified, anything beyond that was based on tobacco company revenues. Note that these are the same companies selling products that every right-thinking person wanted effectively banned. The entire purpose of an anti-smoking crusade is to ensure there are no more smokers, and if there are no more smokers, then no one is buying smokes, and companies that make smokes have no revenue, and…

“Well, crap,” went the state governments when tobacco company revenues started going down just like more or less everyone in the universe expected them to and thus the settlement payouts went down in like kind. Only so much cancer could be outsourced to the Third World, and the settlement itself was a watershed moment in the global retreat of the tobacco industry. It was no longer certain that the bonds could be paid off when they matured.

This was bad for the states, obviously: financial default can cripple sovereign nations (just ask any Argentinian) and the last time U.S. states defaulted on their debts was in 1841. The only way they got out was through uncomfortable legislation and, yes, increased taxes. The buyers’ side of things was arguably worse: the people who originally bought the bonds sold them to others for a profit, who did the same, who did the same, and the origami that is modern finance inflated the bonds’ worth. Someone would be left holding the bag, and it wouldn’t just be the states’ problem.

This is about when the Great Recession happened. The bonds hadn’t matured, but with everything else in the financial world going up in a ball of fire and smoke like a luftgas-filled Hindenburg, someone sat down and ran some numbers and figured out just how little the bonds were worth, since their ratings had been artificially inflated. Their value collapsed, which was bad for the people and banks (and the customers of those banks) that held them but good for the states, since they’d been given time to sort things out.

Give you three guesses as to what they didn’t do.

Now three guesses as to what they did.

Yes, there are now more tobacco settlement-backed bonds on the market. Yes, they are again at extreme risk of being overextended, to the point that banks are leaning on ratings agencies to give them artificially high grades

“Get to the point,” I hear you cry.

Here’s the point: the same governments that are responsible for regulating tobacco companies are fiscally dependent on those self-same tobacco companies in order to avoid default. If they’re forced to default on anything, their credit collapses and then they cannot fund anything beyond their artificially low tax rates: if you’re of one political persuasion, that means they cannot fund schools, infrastructure, or healthcare systems; if you’re of another, that means they cannot fund tax rebates and credits for job creators.

For everything else they can find money elsewhere, even if it means borrowing more of it–and, like Greece, that’s pretty much what they do–but tobacco settlement bonds are intrinsically linked to tobacco settlement money and can’t be paid with anything but.

These states need tobacco companies to not only make money, but make more money. Hand-over-fist money. The more money those companies make, the more solvent those bonds become and the less likely a state’s financial doomsday is.

Problem: they can’t reverse the progress of anti-smoking campaigns, nor should they. Smoking was perhaps the public health crisis of the twentieth century, and this is in the same century that polio and measles were still a thing.

Even now the CDC says that one out of five deaths in America are smoking related. Smoking is not only bad, it is wrong, with all the moral valence that carries. The states could just as well start involuntarily inseminating nuns and selling their babies as minced dog food for the sort of wobble-headed swivel-eyed pants-on-head evil that a “Hey, Kids, Smoking Really Is Cool!” campaign would be.

Opportunity: e-cigarettes. A lot of market watchers think that e-cigs are accelerating the decline of the big tobacco companies. If that’s true, then it’s in a debt-ridden state’s interest to try and either ban the new technology or regulate it in such a way that the tobacco companies can move in, making profits (and thus improving the bonds’ outlook) without selling the anathema cigarettes. This puts quite a bit of recent things, from million-dollar test requirements to outright bans, into a different perspective.

Cui bono (“who benefits?” for all you non-Latin types) is not the end-all-and-be-all argument in figuring out motivations and agendas, but it can be informative. With e-cigarettes looking to be the next big anti-scientific health scare regulatory requirements well in excess of probable risk, market closures and captures, and propaganda leading to nonsensical arguments that vaping is a gateway to smoking tobacco and (gasp) marijuana are all going to mix together to make a very interesting “informational” landscape in the near future.

The well-meaning but paranoid health activists will mix freely with the moral crusaders and those whose interests are purely pecuniary. Everyone else will be saying they obviously have your best interests at heart; occasionally, this may even be true. All this means it’s up to you to do research and carefully judge the facts to decide what’s best for you.

To be honest, though, that’s how you should live your entire life in a free country: politically, morally, and ethically thoughtful and self-determinant. This just happens to be another little facet of life where the smoke and mirrors may get particularly dense.  

Secret Agent: Timperator of Man
Clandestine Vapes 

eCigs, The Tobacco Settlement & The Road That's Paved With Good Intentions: Oh My
Source: Electronic Cigarette News

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are advertised as being safer than tobacco cigarettes products as the chemical compounds inhaled from e-cigarettes are believed to be fewer and less toxic than…

Shane Brooks’s insight:

Recent research by scientists associated with the Japanese Ministry of Health–and picked up by the World Health Organization–reports that certain carcinogenic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are as explained in this misleading article “ten times more concentrated in e-cig vapor than in cigarette smoke“. Horrible, isn’t it? This is the death knell of the vape industry, that puts paid to the lie that vaping is less harmful than smoking–

Now wait a minute. The report never said that vaping is more harmful than smoking. They ran some tests, got some results, and said more research needed to be done due to the interest in vaping. That’s perfectly valid.

But what about that ‘ten times more concentrated’ in the news headlines? It’s dramatic, to be sure, but, like most headlines, it’s not the entire story. What happened was that the scientists took several models of vaporizers widely available on the Japanese market, hooked them up to some apparatus, and measured levels of carbonyl-group chemicals produced by what they considered to be an intense vaping regimen: ten puffs of two-second deep drags, with thirty seconds between puffs. Whether that’s representative or not isn’t really important; in the end they figured that the high temperature of the thermoresistor wire used to vaporize the e-juice caused some localized chemical changes and produced these chemicals.

It gets interesting deeper into the paper, though, particularly around the data table. They tested thirteen brands. Four brands produced no detectable carbonyl compounds. The e-juice appears to have been kept constant throughout (although the authors don’t specify, which suggests a haphazard attention to variable control) and the voltage was incrementally increased until they got results (and they don’t specify the voltages either, which reinforces the aforementioned haphazard attention to variable control). In any case, that four brands were absolutely negative suggests that manufacturing quality and perhaps engineering design are major factors in the production of these carbonyls.

The researchers said that their test methods lead to results falling into two categories, “extremely high” and “extremely low” (again, left undefined). They also defined a “failure rate” ratio based on the idea that extremely high was extremely bad and extremely low was at least passable. The greatest of these ‘failure rates’ was forty percent, meaning that vaporizers passed more often than they didn’t, but more on that later.

Looking at formaldehyde in particular since it’s what’s been hyped, the highest estimated concentration was 34 micrograms per ten puffs with an error band of plus-or-minus 35 micrograms at a single standard deviation. This result is less than useless. First, an error band two standard deviations wide–one above the estimate, the other below–is appropriate for a confidence level of about 68%. What this means is that the researchers are about 68% confident that the true value of their measurements lie somewhere in the range between 69 and -1 nanograms. Note the negative sign; this means that to this same confidence level, they cannot statistically tell the difference between what they measured and zero. Why the researchers used a one-sigma confidence interval rather than the more common two-sigma (95% confidence level) confidence interval is unknown, but it already suggests low-quality data.

Moving along, the second was 22 micrograms plus-or-minus 15.4 micrograms. This is per ten puffs, so that means one puff contained 2.2 nanograms of formaldehyde. They said a puff was 55 milliliters of air. This is 400 micrograms per liter, or .4 parts per million. OSHA has set the

eight-hour-workday limit on formaldehyde exposure to 0.75 parts per million (Part Number 1910.1048(c)(2)).

Since the ideal state of “safe” doesn’t exist, there is only “safe enough.” What is “safe enough” depends entirely on baselines, and reporting on the safety of anything is extremely sensitive to what baseline is used to report it. Everything you will ever do can be made to sound horribly unsafe if compared to plane crashes or asteroid strikes, and the headline here is an egregious example. Cigarettes are bad because they contain formaldehyde, e-cigs generate more formaldehyde than cigarettes, so e-cigs are worse–except that the health risk of cigarettes does not come primarily from formaldehyde. It comes from all the chemicals and particulates generated by combustion. A well-blackened steak probably has more carbon in it than a cigarette, but that doesn’t mean it will harm your health (at least, not in the same way).

Getting back to the “failure rate,” the vaporizer brand that “failed” most often (40%) only produced 17 micrograms of formaldehyde. The one that meaningfully produced the most formaldehyde “failed” 27% of the time. These “failure rates,” again, are based on data distributions, not actually exceeding levels known to be harmful.

Taking the meaningful worst-case numbers from the researchers’ data tables and comparing them with Federal risk guidelines produces the bottom table:

Table 1: Comparisons of Worst-Case Experimental Results and Risk Limits

Carbonyl           Worst-case         Worst-case       Work-Day Limit

                             (μg/10 puffs)       (ppm)                 OSHA (ppm)


Formaldehyde   22                         0.40                      0.75

Acetaldehyde    15                          0.27                      200

Acrolein              20                          0.36                      0.1

Propanal             15                          0.27                      20                                  

Glyoxal                16                          0.29                      0.04

Methylglyoxal    12.1                       0.220                  None Listed

Out of these, acrolein
 and glyoxal are out of range and thus probably hazardous over a long time, keeping in mind that these are absolute worst-case numbers and most readings were actually much lower than these (and well within acceptable limits). These numbers represent the rattiest of ratty e-cigs you can pick up out of a gutter, and they’re being compared to limits that assume that you’re using them non-stop for eight hours a day. Short-term exposure limits are much more generous.

Doing the same with the best possible e-cig numbers from the study, however:

Table 2: Comparisons of Best-Case Experimental Results and Risk Limits

Carbonyl           Worst-case         Worst-case       Work-Day Limit

                             (μg/10 puffs)       (ppm)                 OSHA (ppm)


Formaldehyde   0.0                       0.0                      0.75

Acetaldehyde    0.0                        0.0                     200

Acrolein              0.0                        0.0                      0.1

Propanal             0.0                        0.0                      20                                  

Glyoxal                0.0                        0.0                      0.04

Methylglyoxal    0.0                     0.0                    None Listed


Just for fun, let’s take the worst-case numbers but weight them by their “failure rate” to get an approximately realistic ‘statistical population’ view of the risk.

Table 3: Comparisons of FR-Weighted Worst-Case Experimental Results and Risk Limits

Carbonyl           Worst-case         Worst-case       Work-Day Limit

                             (μg/10 puffs)       (ppm)                 OSHA (ppm)


Formaldehyde   5.9                   0.11                     0.75

Acetaldehyde    6.0                    0.11                    200

Acrolein              4.8                     0.09                    0.1

Propanal             6.0                    0.11                     20                                  

Glyoxal                3.2                     0.06                    0.04

Methylglyoxal   3.27                  0.06                   None Listed

Look at that: mostly safe. Good thing glyoxal isn’t considered a carcinogen (yet).

That’s the problem with numbers. They can be spun, and not necessarily intentionally. People with agendas can, consciously or not, compare numbers in ways that reinforce the narrative they want to tell. For those who see vaping as the next great moral panic and social vice or a public health catastrophe, they have every reason to take the worst-of-worst-case numbers and compare them to other things that make them sound hopelessly bad in order to tell a story: “these things are dangerous.” For people in the business, they have every reason to spin the other way: “these things are safe.”

Meanwhile, we think you’re capable of figuring things out for yourself and so we’ve got no interest in blowing vapor up your ass. “Safe” and “dangerous” are, to be honest, statements of a personal stomach for risk. Risk is calculated using statistics and the data are found using science. Get scientifically literate and look at the research yourself. Ask your science-nerd friends questions about what research papers say. Look for weasel words and special pleading in news reports, and pay careful attention to how scientists qualify their statements. Define safe for yourself, and make your life choices based on that.

Do we think vaping is safe? The honest answer is “it’s safe enough for us.” So far, all research indicates it’s a hell of a lot safer than smoking, even if a few chemicals are in excess of those found in tobacco smoke. Of course, we’ve got a vested interest in the matter,  we don’t want to blow vapor up your ass–so educate yourself and reach your own conclusions.

Secret Agent: Timperator of Man
Clandestine Vapes 

Carbonyl Compounds Generated from Electronic Cigarettes.
Source: Electronic Cigarette News

Clandestine Vapes

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