Vaping could stunt brain growth in teenagers because of these toxic chemicals

Toxic metals like uranium, lead and cadmium found in vapes could be damaging teenagers’ brains and other organs (Picture: SWNS)

Forget about collapsing lungs and heart failure, vaping could be stunting the growth of teens’ brains due to toxic metals like lead and uranium.

Children as young as four have ended up in hospital with vape-related conditions like collapsed lungs as vaping fast becomes a ‘youth epidemic’.

Roughly 15% of children aged 11 to 15, and more than a third of 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK have vaped, according to an Action on Smoking and Health survey.

The problem has got so bad, that a Scottish schoolteacher had to install vape alarms in toilets to stop students puffing between classes.

This could be stunting the growth of their brains and other organs due to higher levels of toxic chemicals found in their bodies, a new study warns.

It may also harm children’s school achievement by limiting their cognitive and behavioural development.

Vapes are full of metals like lead and uranium that also cause cancer, breathing problems and cardiovascular disease in children at an age when they’re most damaging.

Sweet-flavoured vapes had the highest levels of the radioactive chemical uranium, which is used in the production of nuclear power and bombs.

‘These compounds are known to cause harm in humans’, Dr Hongying Daisy Dai, author of the study published in the Tobacco Control journal, said.

Smoking cigarettes might make a teenager vomit and cause long-term health problems, but vaping can put them in intensive care with lung bleeding, lung collapse, air leaks, and the lungs filling up with fat (Picture: SWNS)

She added: ‘Vaping in early life could increase the risk of exposure to metals, potentially harming brain and organ development.

‘Regulations on vaping should safeguard the youth population against addiction and exposure to metals.’

Uranium levels were twice as high in the urine of frequent teenage vapers aged 13 to 17 than they were for occasional vapers, researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found.

However, uranium in the urine could also be from exposure to natural deposits, industrial activities and dietary intake, researchers warned.

They tested the urine of 200 exclusive vapers for the presence of cadmium, lead, and uranium.

Of those, 65 of the teenagers were occasional users, 45 were intermittent and 81 were frequent. The frequency was missing for nine.

Frequency was designed as occasional if they vaped one to five days per month, intermittent if it was six to 19 days, and frequent if they vaped on more than 20.

Hospital admissions due to vaping have soared 276% in the four years since 2020, according to NHS England (Picture: Tolga Akmen/EPA)

Lead levels were 40% higher among intermittent vapers, and 30% higher among frequent vapers, than among occasional vapers.

Participants were also separated into four mutually exclusive flavour categories – menthol or mint, fruit, sweet like chocolate or desserts, and others like tobacco, spice, or alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

A third of vapers used menthol or mint in the previous 30 days, half opted for fruit flavours, and just over 15% chose sweet while only 2% picked other flavours.

Uranium levels were 90% higher in vapers who opted for for sweet flavours instead of menthol and mint.

Researchers found no statistically significant differences in cadmium levels between vaping frequency or flavour types.

Dr Dai said: ‘Candy-flavoured e-cigarette products make up a substantial proportion of adolescent vapers, and sweet taste in e-cigarettes can suppress the harsh effects of nicotine and enhance its reinforcing effects, resulting in heightened brain cue-reactivity.

‘E-cigarette use during adolescence may increase the likelihood of metal exposure, which could adversely affect brain and organ development.’

But researchers also highlighted some limitations of their research.

They stressed that, because it was an observational study, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the relationship between toxic metal levels and vaping frequency or flavours.

Levels are likely to vary between brand and type of vape.

Dr Dai said: ‘These findings call for further research, vaping regulation, and targeted public health interventions to mitigate the potential harms of e-cigarette use, particularly among adolescents.’

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