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What is Diacetyl? Is There Diacetyl In My Eliquid?

By Matt McConnell

Wednesday August 5, 2015
is there diacetyl in your eliquid

As anti-vaping forces hype and prop junk science in an effort to attack electronic cigarettes, one of their expressed concerns may actually have some validity. That concern regards the presence of diacetyl in eliquid. What is diacetyl? It is an approved food additive used in fake butter flavorings. In large portions, diacetyl has the potential to be harmful.

The molecular formula of diacetyl is (CH3CO)2 and the chemical formula is C4H6O2. The FDA studied diacetyl and found that it metabolized when consumed and had low toxicity with “no-adverse-effect level”. That study was based on evaluating diacetyl as a food additive and did not measure what happens when diacetyl is inhaled.

What is diacetyl? It is a greenish, yellow substance, diacetyl has a distinct, buttery flavor. Most actually describe it as an intensely buttery flavor. It has been used in many butter substitutes over the years and has been most notably and infamously known for its presence in microwave popcorn. You have probably heard of popcorn lung.

Popcorn lung first came to the attention of medical experts in 2006 when microwave popcorn factory workers began being diagnosed with a condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and potentially fatal lung disease. The problem turned out to be inhaling diacetyl fumes.

Popcorn Lung

popcorn lung bronchiolitis obliterans and vapingPopcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, is a serious lung disease that obstructs airways. Scar tissue builds up causing the bronchioles, or airways, to become compressed.

Even when air is able to enter the bronchioles, it can become trapped so the lungs remain inflated because victims are unable to expel air.

Popcorn lung is a terrible condition that can leave patients feeling as though they are drowning. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a dry cough and wheezing.

Despite the seemingly benign name, popcorn lung is a terrible and irreversible condition. What is diacetyl? When inhaled in large amounts it is a toxic substance that can make you sick.

Popcorn lung patients that have received a lung transplant are at very high risk for a recurrence of the disease. It is very difficult to treat and thankfully the makers of microwave popcorn products no longer use diacetyl in butter flavorings.

There has also been at least one case of a man who made microwave popcorn every day for 10 years and he developed popcorn lung. He won a highly publicized lawsuit in 2012 and was awarded over seven million dollars. After breathing in artificial butter flavorings for a decade the court found that the manufacturer was responsible for not warning consumers about the dangers of inhaling the buttery aroma of microwave popcorn.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued an advisory to anyone working in an environment where diacetyl is used. They they fully described ‘what is diacetyl’ and then recommended respiratory protection for workers and warned against exposure.

Read the Occupational Health and Safety Administration advisory here.

As of 2015, a number of occupations, including coffee roasters, were being examined for potential diacetyl exposure. The FDA has not issued any warnings but they are aware that there is a danger if it is inhaled in large amounts.

What Is Diacetyl

diacetyl molecule What is diacetyl? Diacetyl is a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation. Brewers have long been familiar with diacetyl. For example, when beer is properly fermented at the appropriate low temperatures and for a long enough period of time, the diacetyl will dissipate.

Brewers are careful and the do test for the tell-tale buttery taste. It can spoil a great beer but drinking diactyl is not the same as inhaling.

Diacetly is still found is some alcoholic beverages. There have been occasions where the yeast used in fermentation has not oxidized as yeast normally does and resulted in a higher presence of diacetyl in the finished product.

There is no real need to worry about diacetyl in your beer! The health problems that have been connected to diacetyl have related to instances where it was inhaled.

For the most part, diacetyl is not a problem in professionally brewed beers. More often than not, home brews may have higher diacetyl levels. In the world of ecigs and vaping, the same holds true. Professionally blended eliquids that are created in a proper lab simply do not use diacetyl in any eliquid recipe. It is the boutique ejuice blends that are the problem.

Is There Diacetyl In My Eliquid?

diacetyl in eliquidThere is diacetyl in some eliquids. If you are a vaper, you need to pay attention to this. In an eliquid study conducted by researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens-Greece, it was found that 74.2% of eliquids tested contained diacetyl.

Concerned? In this case you should be. What is diacetyl? It is a totally unnecessary risk but a current reality and vapers need to be aware.

If you are naturally skeptical about negative ecigs studies, that is certainly understandable. All too often, ecig studies are the products of an agenda to demonize vaping and to scare people. Studies about teen ecig use, formaldehyde in ecigs and ecigs being as toxic as smoking have been disproved and discredited. They are the product of junk science.

For example, anti-vaping funded researchers love to expose ecig liquids and atomizers to extreme, totally unrealistic heat and then they say, “hey, we found a trace of formaldehyde”.   It is less that the amount of formaldehyde than you find in cheap hand soap but they don’t say that. No human would ever use an ecig they way they did for their experiment but they don’t tell you that. It is ridiculous.

Dr. Farsalinos is not one of those researchers. He is a legitimate researcher who conducts experiments without making any predetermination. He is actually a proponent of vaping because he has seen the science. He does not have an agenda other than conducting legitimate research. So when Dr. Farsalinos conducts a study, the results need to be taken seriously.

Dr. Farsalinos and his team collected 159 eliquid samples from 39 different eliquid vendors in Europe and the US. They were all sweet flavored ejuices. They tested for the presence of diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, which has also been linked to respiratory illness. Here is what they found.

74.2 % of the samples had diacetyl or acetyl propionyl. Diecetyl was more common. Of those, just under 60% contained a level of diacetyl that was lower than the current safety limits that have been established by NIOSH, CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Conversely, slightly more than 40% of the samples had a diacetyl level that was higher than the safety standards. One of the eliquid samples contained diacetyl at a level that was 495 times higher than the NIOSH safety limit. The highest acetyl propionyl level found was 22 times higher than the safety limit. For comparison, tobacco has 100 times the safe level of diacetyl and 10 times the safe level for acetyl propionyl.

Of course tobacco has thousands of other toxic compounds that are not in eliquid so it is not as though even the worst eliquids are as bad as smoking. The study confirmed once again that vaping provides a less harmful smoking alternative. Still, it is relatively easy to avoid the worst eliquids. You just have to be aware.

Diacetyl In eLiquid

eliquid bottles

Diacetyl gets into eliquid in the form of flavoring. Diacetyl is a cheap flavoring that adds sweetness to ejuice blends. Some eliquid vendors want the cheapest additives possible so they use diacetyl.

Even more eliquid blenders probably don’t even know that they are putting diacetyl in their blends because they simply buy a pre-made flavoring without realizing what the ingredients are.

Here’s the problem. There are no rules regarding eliquid. The FDA regulations have not come down and anyone can make eliquid.

It is not that hard to do and you can buy everything you need right off of Amazon or eBay. As a result, too many eliquids are being made and sold by people who are simply not qualified. They can’t even answer the question “what is diacetyl” nor can they even tell you if it is in the flavoring they use to blend their brand.

Many of the eliquid vendors currently blending products with unsafe levels of diacetyl are probably unaware that they are doing so. They are buying food flavorings without understanding that the flavorings that they are buying have the diacetyl already in them. You buy the food flavorings online without seeing the ingredients and the lower cost flavorings are more likely to have diacetyl.

When those flavorings are used in an eliquid blend, you end up with diacetyl in your ejuice. There is probably no ill intention whatsoever it is just a result of not knowing. These are not chemists making these ejuices, these are amateurs with good intentions but not the required knowledge. This is an accurate depiction of the current state of the eliquid business.

The biggest offenders are the boutique eliquids. Previously, we covered the story of eliquids that had the wrong nicotine levels in them. Once again, this is a result of amateur chemists making eliquids outside the boundaries of professional protocols. Put bluntly, they simply don’t know what they are doing.

The study recommends testing eliquids and urges manufacturers to avoid flavorings that contain diacetyl. There are many flavor formulas that do not contain diacetyl. Creating sweet eliquids free of dangerous ingredients is an easy fix.

Diacetyl in eliquid is completely avoidable. It’s simply a matter of not including any sweet flavorings that contain diacetyl. Eliquid that is blended by professional chemists in a professional lab setting and uses the best quality ingredients can avoid any diacetyl. There are many quality eliquid brands so that’s the good news here.

Once the FDA regulations go into effect, you can expect the eliquid business to get a whole lot safer. Until then, you really have to be careful.

Diactyl Free eLiquids

vaporfi ejuice is diacetyl freeWith the state of the eliquid business being what it is, it is vital that you buy your ejuice from reputable, professional brands that manufacture eliquids in a lab setting staffed by professional chemists. It requires a trained professional to fully understand not only the ingredients but how to blend them correctly. This is also true for getting the nicotine level correct.

You need to demand transparency. All ingredients should be listed. Eliquid brands like VaporFi and Black Note publish a full lab analysis of their eliquids. That is the kind of transparency that we need in the industry.

Leading eliquid brands have nothing to hide. They are happy to share analysis of their ejuice recipes. Look for eliquids that tell you that their products are diacetyl free. Most of them will indicate that their products are diacetyl free.

The leading brands blend their products in a lab and employ actual chemists. Companies like Mt Baker Vapor, halo, VaporFi and Apollo are examples of professional companies that use only quality ingredients. They use strict production protocols, track each batch and test regularly. These companies have invested heavily in creating the best and purest products. They know that FDA regulation is coming and they have prepared accordingly. When you buy your eliquid from a quality brand you will be avoiding the dangerous and unpredictable pitfalls of vaping ejuice blended by either shady vendors or well-intentioned amateurs.

The following eliquids do not use diacetyl in their eliquid recipes:

BlackNote eLiquid – BlackNote uses a process called N.E.T. That stands for “naturally extracted tobacco”. Black note eliquid does not use any flavor additives whatsoever. All of their eliquids are tobacco flavors.

ECCR completed a full Black Note eliquid review and we found the quality and vaping experience to be second to none. The natural tobacco flavors are extracted over a six to eight week period using cold maceration. This is a natural process that does not involve any intervention. The flavors are naturally drawn from tobacco plants.

Black Note provides a full independent lab analysis on their website. You can see the purity for yourself.  This is the type of full transparency that is needed in the vaping industry. The last thing we need is to give the critics ammunition.

Halo Premium eLiquid – was among the first eliquid vendors to take eliquid blending out of back alleys and into a professional setting complete with the highest laboratory protocols. Halo set the standard early and they remain a leader in the industry. Halo eliquid is famous for quality and that quality is achieved through using the very best ingredients.

Halo’s eliquids are all diacetyl free. They use USP grade ingredients. USP sets the worldwide standards. All eliquids are tracked and tested by chemists. The quality control standards are uncompromising.

VaporFi eLiquid – is incredibly transparent regarding all phases of eliquid production. VaporFi blends its ejuice in an FDA approved lab and all of their ejuice recipes have been filed with the FDA. There is no diacetyl in any of their eliquids. You can go online and see an independent lab report regarding the eliquid. They also use USP grade ingredients.

VaporFi has an innovative feature regarding their eliquids. Customers can actually go online and create their own eliquid recipes. Once a customer chooses their preferred ratios and flavors, VaporFi’s lab will blend and send. This all adds up to 30,000 plus flavor combinations.

The above mentioned are three of the leading brands that use stringent protocols to provide top quality, diacetyl free eliquids. You can easily avoid the risks. Just know what you are buying and vape safe.







Disclosure: We may receive a commission for purchases made by consumers after clicking through one of the links on this website.

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