Friday, November 05, 2010

Groups Warning Against E-Cigarettes Due to Propylene Glycol Should Also Warn the Public Not to Use Cough Medicine, Nasal Sprays, and Many More Meds

Many anti-smoking groups are publicly discouraging smokers from using electronic cigarettes as a tool to achieve smoking cessation because many of these devices use propylene glycol to vaporize the nicotine. These warnings are highlighted by the proclamation of one chemist, quoted in an article yesterday in the Casper Journal, who said that propylene glycol should not be ingested nor inhaled, because it causes respiratory irritation, convulsions, and gastrointestinal distress.

The article first documents the anecdotal finding that many electronic cigarette users experience a rapid improvement in their health as soon as they quit smoking and switch to e-cigarettes. According to the article: "Bar Nunn resident Duane Gray is also a vaper, having begun “smoking” the e-cigs eight months ago. He loves them, he says. “My lungs and sinuses have cleared up, there are no more tobacco stains on my fingers or the smell of smoke on my clothes.” ...

NSA manager, Tammy Waltemath, stopped smoking the day she tried the e-cig. ... “I believe in the product,” she says. “I had a pack of regular cigarettes in a drawer and I just opened the drawer and said, “Aha!...because I no longer needed them.” ... Waltemath reported her smoker’s cough was gone in less than a week."

Then, the article provides the other side of the story: "The e-cig’s are not without controversy, however, and have not yet been approved by the FDA. In July, 2009, the FDA’s Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis released a warning that a cartridge from one leading brand of e-cigarettes was found to contain one percent diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze, as well as detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed."

"Byron says that the e-cigs he sells do not contain diethylene glycol, but propylene glycol. However, chemist Michael S. Sommer from the University of Wyoming in Laramie says, “As far as saying that propylene glycol or ethylene glycol are detrimental to one’s health, it is safe to say that neither should be ingested. Both, if inhaled, seem to cause irritations to the respiratory system, and both can cause convulsions and gastro-intestinal distress.”"

"Sommer also says that there is no solid proof one way or the other as to whether these glycols cause cancer. He adds that diethylene glycol may be used in antifreeze but is more commonly found in hydraulic fluids, such as brake fluid. Propylene glycol, as ethylene glycol, is commonly used in antifreeze."

The Rest of the Story

For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that Sommer and the anti-smoking groups are correct and that propylene glycol is hazardous and should not be ingested or inhaled. Let's assume that it is essentially the equivalent of ingesting or inhaling antifreeze, as the FDA and many anti-smoking groups would like us to believe. Then, the question I would ask is:

Why isn't Sommer, and why aren't these anti-smoking groups, calling for the removal of cough medicines like Robitussin from the market?

Many formulations of Robitussin cough medicine contain propylene glycol. These include: Robitussin DM Max, Robitussin DM, Robitussin DM To Go, Robitussin Sugar-Free DM, Robitussin Long-Acting Cough Gels, Robitussin CF Max, Robitussin CF, Robitussin CF To Go, Robitussin Cough & Cold Long-Acting, Robitussin Night Time Cough & Cold, Robitussin Night Time Cough, Cold, & Flu, Robitussin Children's Cough & Cold Long-Acting, Robitussin Children's Cough Long-Acting, and Robitussin Children's Cough and Cold CF.

Numerous other common allergy, cough, and cold medications, for both adults and children, contain propylene glycol. These include: Advil Children's Suspension, CVS Flu and Severe Cold Nighttime, CVS Children's Chest Congestion Expectorant, CVS Tussin Cough Formula, Dimetapp Cold & Allergy for Children, Theraflu Warming Relief Cold & Chest Congestion, Theraflu Warming Relief Nighttime Severe Cold, TheraFlu Warming Relief Flu & Sore Throat Cherry, Triaminic Children's Chest & Nasal Congestion Syrup Tropical Flavor, Tylenol Sore Throat Liquid Daytime Cool Burst, CVS Children's Allergy Relief Oral Solution, CVS Children's Allergy Relief Cetirizine Hydrochloride Liquid Grape, and Claritin Children's Allergy Solution Grape Flavor.

Other medications which contain propylene glycol include Amantidine (which is used to treat Parkinson's disease), Epivir (used to treat HIV/AIDS infection), the Flector patch (used to treat pain), Qusetran (used to reduce cholesterol), Ursodiol (used to treat gallstones), metoclopramide (used to treat certain gastrointestinal disorders), Methadone (used to treat opiate dependence), and Invega (used to treat schizophrenia).

A number of eye drop formulations contain propylene glycol, which is presumably absorbed via the tissues of the eye. These include: Alcon Systane Lubricant Eye Drops and Alcon Systane Lubricant Eye Drops Vials.

Several nasal sprays contain propylene glycol, which presumably could deliver this chemical to the respiratory tract. These include: Afrin Nasal Spray No Drip Severe Congestion, Afrin Pump Mist Original, Afrin Nasal Spray Original, Ayr Saline Nasal Gel, and Ayr Saline Nasal Gel Moisturizing Swabs.

Propylene glycol is injected directly into the bloodstream when patients receive IV dilantin, an anti-seizure medication. It is also injected directly into the bloodstream when patients are treated with melphalan and istodax, which are chemotherapeutic agents. Fenoldopam, an intravenously-administered drug to treat high blood pressure, contains propylene glycol. Also containing propylene glycol for injection are IV valium and IV ativan.

Where are all these medications on the list that this chemist is warning people about because they contain propylene glycol, which should not be ingested or inhaled? Why is the FDA not warning us that all of these other medications contain a chemical that is used in anti-freeze? Why are the anti-smoking groups not instructing the public not to use the medications on this list because they contain a component of anti-freeze?

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