While electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were initially touted as being much safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes, recent research has highlighted a number of safety concerns associated with them.
There have been instances where the devices have exploded and injured consumers. In 2009, the FDA found detectable levels of cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes. Other studies show that the aerosol from these products can contain formaldehyde (a carcinogen) as well as diacetyl, a chemical used to flavor the liquid that is linked to respiratory disease.
One of the biggest concerns is the danger to children who tend to be curious about the liquid nicotine containers. The containers are attractive to kids because of their bright colors and tempting flavors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2014 that they’d seen a dramatic increase in e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers.
A family in Oregon recently experienced this danger first-hand. Their six-year-old daughter nearly died after ingesting 10 ml of liquid nicotine that her mother was about to use.
Little Girl Suffers from Nicotine Overdose
In this case, it wasn’t the colors or the flavors that attracted the child. She had been suffering from a sprained ankle, and had finished her bottle of pain medication (ibuprofen). Her mom was using that empty bottle to store liquid nicotine solution, which she had purchased from an online store.
The girl’s father, unaware that the mother was using the medication bottle for the nicotine solution, accidentally gave it to his daughter for her pain. The little girl started experiencing symptoms, so he double-checked the solution, and realized what it was. He immediately called the poison control center.
When she arrived at the emergency room, the child was suffering from vomiting, sweating, muscle twitching, tremors, and an elevated heart rate. Doctors treated her for the nicotine overdose and kept her in the ICU overnight.
The case was reported by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). They noted that the accident happened just a couple weeks after the U.S. Surgeon General released a report warning about the dangers related to e-cigarettes.
Nicotine Solution Dangerous for Children and Teens
The ACEP published a case study on this incident in the January 2017 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine. They stated in the abstract that liquid nicotine, such as that used in e-cigarettes, is “highly concentrated, unreliably packaged, and poorly regulated.” Lead study author Matthew Noble, M.D., stated that children are increasingly at risk from these refill liquids, and warned emergency physicians and poison centers that additional cases of nicotine toxicity, especially in young children, will continue.
According to the Washington Post, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy stated in a recent interview that youth and young adults should not be using e-cigarettes, because they are unsafe. Parents, meanwhile, have to be more cautious around their young children. Kyran Quinlan, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on injury Violence and Poison Prevention, told the Post that the Oregon case was unusual, as usually kids find the nicotine solutions and try them because they come in candy-like flavors packaged in bright colors.
One small sip of the solution can contain enough nicotine to kill a child of two years or younger.