Meet the 5 chemicals you didn’t know were in vaping products

Youth use of e-cigarettes and vaping products doubled between 2012 and 2016, and now, use rates are higher for vaping products than traditional cigarettes. To help combat these rapidly increasing rates of youth vaping, Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Program, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, Snohomish Health District, Spokane Regional Health District, and United General District 304 in Sedro-Woolley, is introducing youth to the potentially harmful chemicals lurking in vape products and their vapor through a new campaign called “Escape the Vape.”

In contrast to a “just don’t do it”-style campaign that tells youth what to do, Escape the Vape hopes to give kids the facts they need to make the decision to stop or never start vaping themselves. There’s no question these chemical characters are pretty unforgettable.

Get to know the “Chemical Crew”


Hi, I’m Aluminum, you probably use me every day. I’m in foil, soda cans, vacuum cleaners, hair spray cans, toasters, kitchen utensils…need I go on? I just found out that I’ve been found in some vapor and vape liquids.  I’m raging about this because inhaling me has been shown to cause chemical pneumonia and in kids, toxic levels of me can cause slowed growth and deformed bones. Now that I’ve learned this all, I’m not talkin’. I’m just here so I don’t get vaped!


I’m Cadmium. I bet you are holding me right now because i’m in your cell phone battery (where I should be). Sadly I’m feeling drained now that I’ve been found in vaping products. Low levels of me can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (not fun!).


Hi! I’m Silver! You can find me in photography, mirrors, medical equipment, and don’t forget jewelry! Those are some of my proudest accomplishments but, my reputation is being tarnished by being found in vaping products. And I can’t take it anymore, I need to shine! Inhaling me can cause breathing problems, lung and throat irritation, and stomach pain. Prolonged exposure to my dust can cause permanent blue-gray staining of the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and skin. Not a good look.


Hello, Lead here. I’m used to make things like pipes, roofing, and paint. I’m also in the heavy apron used to protect people from extra radiation during an x-ray. People have known for a long time that I am toxic when swallowed, eaten, or inhaled. Two words: Lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can lead to immediate and long-term health problems (especially in kids) such as nerve damage, issues with your digestive system, and death. In young people, significant exposure to me has been shown to cause a drop in IQ level. So I always try to avoid kids, and I’m not happy that I’m now being found in some vaping products.


Diacetyl, that’s me! I give food products a buttery taste. Do you enjoy buttered microwave popcorn? That’s me you’re tasting. I’m also used to make a variety of vape liquid flavors such as piña colada, chocolate cake, and vanilla. Here’s the problem, while it’s ok to eat SMALL amounts of me, inhaling me can cause “popcorn lung,” a serious disease. Popcorn lung can cause scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs, causing wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Involving youth in campaign development

This campaign concept was informed by extensive feedback and input from youth across the state. For over a year, youth provided input via an online platform that tested campaign tone, messages, images, and videos. “Escape the Vape” is the product of this collaborative process and brings to life some of the chemicals that have been found in vapor products.

Follow the Chemical Crew’s adventures to Escape the Vape on and share the site with your teenagers or other teens you know.

Originally posted June 14, 2017.

2 thoughts on “Meet the 5 chemicals you didn’t know were in vaping products

  1. Hm, has silver been found at levels such that anybody could ever get argyria from vaping? I know you could say you’re just reporting fun facts about silver, but it seems a bit disingenuous if it’s a thing that will never happen.

    If you were summarizing “biological activity of vaping”, how many of these would make the cut? The others look like a gross-out move.

  2. Hi, thank you for your questions. This campaign targets youth and was developed with input from a large diverse group of youth from King and Spokane Counties. The youth wanted to know what has been found in vapor and vape liquids. We purposely chose not to present this information through scare tactics, as feedback from youth strongly indicated that method would not be effective. According to the 2016 U.S Surgeon General’s Report, “e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful constituents including nicotine. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.”

    While the Food and Drug Administration now has oversight of these products, they have not made any regulations regarding the levels or limits of the ingredients or byproducts from these products. Our campaign is providing information about what has been found in some of these products. There is still many unknowns about what these products contain and deliver to the user and the bystander, but its clear youth should not be using them.

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