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Study Summery

When you read a headline like “Harvard researchers found low levels of bacteria and fungus in some e-cig carts” you tend to panic. And even though it’s actually from 2013, it still can niggle at the back of your mind. So, why are there still headlines grabbing your attention and directing it to this? It’s because they expect anti-vapers to latch onto this outdated and inconclusive study. And with good reason. Because that is precisely what those who are avid anti-vape supporters do.

One thing is for certain, we can expect the Harvard study to be added to the zombie vaping myth cannon. Keep in mind that although the study authors were quick to point out the limitations of their study, it seems unlikely that vaping critics will show the same level of discretion. So, please keep your eyes peeled and pay attention for misinformation out there. One thing that can help is making sure you stick to reputable companies such as Medusa Juice when looking for anything from information to e-liquid.

Maybe you’re short of time and generally just skim over articles. If you do not have time to read this full article or the Harvard study, I’ll give you a quick summary here. It seems that the researchers did not have enough data to draw any real conclusions. They only had one sample of each product tested. These products that were tested, all thirty- eight e-liquids and thirty-seven e-cig cartridges, were the top selling products from 2013.

So, if you are worried about fungi and bacteria at levels deemed not to be dangerous, even when exposed to at an environmental level, do not travel back in time and purchase certain cartridge systems at your local convenience store. The e-liquids they tested fared far better, with less frequent contamination and lower concentrations of bacteria and fungus when contaminated.

This study, flawed as it was concluded: “EC (e-cigarette) products may be contaminated with microbial toxins. Further studies with large representative samples of products are needed.”

Needless to say that at the time, and still now to those who are gullible, this was explosive news. A problem arose too when, at the time, there weren’t a lot of scientists who were familiar with vaping, and this did make it difficult to get intelligent, informed reports. Which means that there were a lot of people out there who might latch onto this as the gospel truth.

Dr Farsalino, a Harvard trained scientist, debunked the toxic metals in e-cigs study, but this new study has enough flaws where it does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny from a layman. Of course calling the issues flaws is not entirely fair. Even the authors were quick to point out there was not much meat on the bone, which makes me wonder why they even bothered, but there you go.

Flaws In Study

Don’t start throwing away your vaping device and going out for a pack of cigarettes just yet. There is some crucial information that must still be considered. The first, and most obvious flaw is that the researchers focused on the ten best-selling vaping products from 2013. They then proceeded to collect a total of seventy-five samples, thirty-seven cartridges and thirty-eight e-liquids. The flavors were classified into four groups: tobacco, menthol, fruit and other.

I think we can agree that vaping world has changed tremendously since 2013. It is pretty clear the products tested are not representative of what the majority of vapers use today, in 2019.

If we were to compare this study to one examining automobile pollution by testing the emissions of a 1989 Ford LTD Crown Victoria. I actually used to drive a Crown Victoria, a 1991. Sure there are some on the road, and their loyal owners may swear by them, but they represent only a small portion of the miles driven in a given year. As you can imagine, those types of results are biased and not very helpful when it comes to providing real, beneficial information to the community.

I’ve taken the liberty of including a list of flavors tested. There were a total of ten manufacturers selected and you can probably pick out a few. Logic “platinum” flavors and some of Blu’s best sellers from 2013 were tested. Haus had several entries, including their popular Washington Red and American Blend.

MarkTen is now out of business, and it was not launched until 2013. However, there is a Winter Mint flavor, one of their more popular flavors, on the list. It isn’t clear to me who the manufacturer is based on the 2013 timeline. Although NJoy is definitely on the list and their Blue + Blackberry was tested. I assume that V2 and Vaporfi were tested as well. But that’s just an assumption.

One thing the list of products provides is a sort of cool time capsule. But that was then and this is now and fortunately we now have Medusa Juice looking out for us and our vaping needs.

Change Void Results

As I mentioned before, anyone who cites this study as an example of e-cig dangers isn’t taking into account any changes which have been made in manufacturing procedures, or quality control that have occurred in the last five years. And I can tell you, there have been many changes and improvements. For instance, the cartridge e-cigs were tested at the height of their popularity. Today, it is a mature market with stable demand. Not to mention that there have been countless other studies over these past years and with every new study, we have more positive information.

One thing often cited is the demonstrable issue in the study is that cartridges fared much worse than e-juice in the study. E-juices were less frequently contaminated and the concentrations were far lower. Safety precautions have only become better.

We have to consider that the cotton wicking in cartridges was identified as a possible source of fungal and bacterial contamination. Two issues to point out. The popular Juul product uses silica wicking, not cotton. So, that takes that off of the table.

Equally important, in the last few years there has been a huge push by coil manufacturers to vet their sources of cotton. In 2019, most manufacturers use or organic and medical grade cotton for their devices. As you might imagine, this too is a huge safety precaution and a vast improvement.

While the fact that e-juices fared better than cartridges is noteworthy, the fact that tobacco flavors fared much worse than the sweeter e-juice flavors that adult vapers overwhelmingly prefer is also important information.

Putting Results Into Context

Since the first wave of vape technology, the vaping industry has had to go above and beyond in order to gain public acceptance. It did that and was successful. Now too, it will have to go above and beyond the safety practices of established industries. Because just pointing out far more teens binge drink than vape, does not protect the industry or the personal freedom to choose cigarette alternatives. Real information based on credible studies by credible sources are the best way to see the best vape experience for all of us. The fact is that wealthy, educated individuals drink the most alcohol, and strict e-cigs laws which only seem to punish marginalized groups.

This discrepancy in influence does not fully explain the potential San Francisco e-cig ban. It is hard to believe that a city that takes pride championing harm reduction policies, such as offering needle exchanges and safe injection sites, is also willing to deny smokers alternatives to cigarettes. It doesn’t make sense and while the reasons are unclear, their political class views total nicotine abstinence as the gold-standard, and is not concerned that their LBGTQ+ community would be disproportionately impacted by these laws. I’m not sure I’d agree with that way of thinking.

I assume that the goal of the vaping industry should be to do a better job than the alcohol industry. Alcohol is a literal scourge that kills thousands of minors annually. This is not an industry we want to be compared to, and this is why we have implemented strict age verification policies for our website and all four of our Medusa Juice Vape Shops.

The same holds true regarding combustible cigarettes. They were not tested in this study. The insanity of the popcorn lung scare was laid bare when it was shown cigarettes have far higher levels of diacetyl than e-cigs ever did. There are a host of maladies associated with smoking, however, thankfully, popcorn lung isn’t one of them. It doesn’t really matter if it turns out cigarettes have higher levels of bacterial or fungal contamination than e-liquids or prefilled cartridges. Keeping our own house in order should be the priority.


The authors of this study selected the highest nicotine strength that was available. They tested for endotoxin, which composes the cell walls of certain bacteria and glucan. Specifically, they looked for D-Glucan, which a component of fungi and has been shown to cause lung inflammation.

Endotoxin was only found in twenty-three percent of the products, but glucan was found in eighty-one percent of the samples. Here’s where it is key to remember that “the dose makes the poison”. While the results varied by manufacturer, according to the study author, the concentrations found in the samples are “not very high”. In fact, they were “considerably lower than the levels that have been shown to cause lung disease” in workplace environments were the risk of exposure is constant. Like I said, if you’re unsure or want to get information, check with Medusa Juice. They will keep you informed and take care of all of your vaping needs in one place.

If we were to just disregard their views, regardless of the analysis, what were the final results of this study? The authors, themselves, acknowledged that their findings had severe limitations. “We tested only for contamination of samples from cartridges and e-liquids, which may differ from other types of EC products, such as second generation (pens), third-generation (tanks/MODs), and fourth generation (pods) devices.”

We know too that they did not test multiple samples of the same product to test for variation between batches. That alone is a significant faux paus. As we covered earlier, the number of products tested was very small as well. The initial statement made by this study is worth repeating: “Additional research is needed to confirm our findings and assess potential exposures and health effects in EC users.”

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