The usage of electronic cigarettes (ECs) has surged since their invention two decades ago. However, to date, the health effects of EC aerosol exposure are still not well understood because of insufficient data on the chemical composition of EC aerosols and the corresponding evidence of health risks upon exposure. Herein, we quantified the metals in primary and secondhand aerosols generated by three brands of ECs. By combining aerosol filter sampling and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), we assessed the mass of metals as a function of EC flavoring, nicotine concentration, device power, puff duration, and aging of the devices. The masses of Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Cu, and Zn were consistently high across all brands in the primary and secondhand aerosols, some of which were above the regulated maximum daily intake amount, especially for Cr and Ni with mass (nanograms per 10 puffs) emitted at 117 ± 54 and 50 ± 24 (JUUL), 125 ± 77 and 219 ± 203 (VOOPOO), and 33 ± 10 and 27 ± 2 (Vapor4Life). Our analysis indicates that the metals are predominantly released from the EC liquid, potentially through mechanisms such as bubble bursting or the vaporization of metal-organic compounds. High metal contents were also observed in simulated secondhand aerosols, generally 80-90% of those in primary aerosols. Our findings provide a more detailed understanding of the metal emission characteristics of EC for assessing its health effects and policymaking



Second Department

Biological Sciences

Third Department

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


Missouri University of Science and Technology, Grant None

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1520-5010; 0893-228X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2023 American Chemical Society, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

20 Jun 2022

PubMed ID