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Flavoring Ingredient Found In E-Cigarettes Can Potentially Cause Cancer, Researchers Say

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to investigate lung injuries caused by vaping. This will allow the agency to enhance operations and provide additional support to figure out the link that's being called a serious health threat.

Concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes are increasing as hundreds of cases of lung disease related to vaping are under investigation. There has been nothing official yet, but researchers at Yale and Duke have found the flavoring used in electronic cigarettes could be related to cancer and other health impacts.

A flavoring ingredient that can potentially cause cancer has been found in high levels of e-cigarette liquids and smokeless tobacco products by researchers at Duke Health.

Their new study says the chemical called pulegone is in menthol and mint products.

"This is really a big health concern for the vapers because they are putting this chemical in much higher levels than what is accepted by FDA," Duke University researcher Dr. Sairam Jabba said.

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The FDA banned the chemical as a food additive last year.

Scientists from Yale are also researching flavored e-cigarettes. Their findings show chemical reactions between the flavor compounds and the liquid nicotine in vaping products.

"So what is being added by the manufacturer is not actually the chemical compounds that the users are being exposed to. There are chemical reactions happening in the liquid," said Dr. Julie Zimmerman, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale.

Yale researchers built a custom vaping machine to analyze the chemical makeup of flavors.

"Many of these chemicals are known to be inflammatory agents, are known to have toxic effects but we still have to determine things like what concentration and dose do these inflammatory effects appear," said Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a professor of psychiatry at Yale.

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Researchers say flavors are a big worry because they attract children and teens to start vaping.

The Trump administration is moving to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and many states, including New York, are also taking action.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are pushing for a temporary ban on the sale of all e-cigarettes until more research and information is available on the health effects.

While the specific cause of the vaping lung illness hasn't been identified, health officials have linked many cases to cannabis products that contain high levels of vitamin E acetate, which is a thickening agent for vaping liquid.

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The CDC is no longer reporting possible cases, only those that have been confirmed.

For information about the collection of e-cigarettes or vaping products for possible testing by FDA, contact:

To communicate with the CDC about this public health response, clinicians and health officials can contact:

Click here for more information on the current outbreak related to e-cigarettes.

Click here for general information on electronic cigarette products or vaping.

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