Flavouring chemical in e-cigarettes linked to severe respiratory disease

Diacetyl among three harmful compounds found in over 75 per cent of flavoured electronic cigarettes; in other research, male hormone gives women a better sense of direction

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 9:01pm

Diacetyl, a flavouring chemical linked to cases of severe respiratory disease, was found in more than 75 per cent of flavoured electronic cigarettes and refill liquids tested by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Two other potentially harmful related compounds were also found in many of the tested flavours, which included varieties with potential appeal to young people such as Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts, and Cupcake. For more than a decade, inhaling diacetyl has been linked with the debilitating respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially termed “popcorn lung” because it first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavour in microwave-popcorn processing facilities. The researchers tested 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes and liquids sold by leading brands for the presence of diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione, two related flavouring compounds that may pose a respiratory hazard in the workplace. Each e-cigarette was inserted into a sealed chamber attached to a lab-built device that drew air through the e-cigarette for eight seconds at a time with a resting period of 15 or 30 seconds between each draw. The air stream was then analysed. At least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of the 51 flavours tested. Diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 of the flavours tested.

SEE ALSO: Hong Kong still plans e-cigarette ban despite new UK study claiming they’re 95% less harmful than tobacco

Male hormone improves women’s sense of direction

Women administered with testosterone have been found to have a better sense of direction in a new study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Men and women were given wayfinding tasks in a virtual environment while having their brains scanned. Using MRI, the researchers saw that men in the study took several short-cuts, oriented themselves more using cardinal directions and used a different part of the brain than the women in the study. The men solved 50 per cent more of the tasks than the women. But when women got a drop of testosterone under their tongue, several of them were able to orient themselves better in the four cardinal directions.

Dr Carl Pintzka, a medical doctor at the university’s Department of Neuroscience, explains the findings in evolutionary terms. “In ancient times, men were hunters and women were gatherers. Therefore, our brains probably evolved differently. For instance, other researchers have documented that women are better at finding objects locally than men. In simple terms, women are faster at finding things in the house, and men are faster at finding the house.”

Stereotypes around ageing can negatively impact memory and hearing

When older adults feel negatively about ageing, they may lack confidence in their abilities to hear and remember things, and perform poorly at both, according to a new University of Toronto study. A sample of 301 adults between the ages of 56 and 96 completed standard hearing tests followed by a series of recall tasks to test their memory. Participants then responded to a series of questions and statements relating to their own perceptions of their hearing and memory abilities. They were also asked how much they worried about being alone as they got older, losing their independence, becoming more forgetful, and finding contentment in their lives. “Those who held negative views about getting older and believed they had challenges with their abilities to hear and remember things, also did poorly on the hearing and memory tests,” says lead study author Alison Chasteen, a psychology professor. “That’s not to say all older adults who demonstrate poor capacities for hearing and memory have negative views of ageing... there is simply a strong correlation between the two when a negative view impacts an individual’s confidence in the ability to function. Knowing that changing how older adults feel about themselves could improve their abilities to hear and remember will enable the development of interventions to improve their quality of life.”