The ever-evolving market of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) presents a challenge for analyzing and characterizing the harmful products they can produce. Earlier we reported that e-cigarette aerosols can deliver high levels of reactive free radicals; however, there are few data characterizing the production of these potentially harmful oxidants. Thus, we have performed a detailed analysis of the different parameters affecting the production of free radical by e-cigarettes. Using a temperature-controlled e-cigarette device and a novel mechanism for reliably simulating e-cigarette usage conditions, including coil activation and puff flow, we analyzed the effects of temperature, wattage, and e-liquid solvent composition of propylene glycol (PG) and glycerol (GLY) on radical production. Free radicals in e-cigarette aerosols were spin-trapped and analyzed using electron paramagnetic resonance. Free radical production increased in a temperature-dependent manner, showing a nearly 2-fold increase between 100 and 300 °C under constant-temperature conditions. Free radical production under constant wattage showed an even greater increase when going from 10 to 50 W due, in part, to higher coil temperatures compared to constant-temperature conditions. The e-liquid PG content also heavily influenced free radical production, showing a nearly 3-fold increase upon comparison of ratios of 0:100 (PG:GLY) and 100:0 (PG:GLY). Increases in PG content were also associated with increases in aerosol-induced oxidation of biologically relevant lipids. These results demonstrate that the production of reactive free radicals in e-cigarette aerosols is highly solvent dependent and increases with an increase in temperature. Radical production was somewhat dependent on aerosol production at higher temperatures; however, disproportionately high levels of free radicals were observed at ≥100 °C despite limited aerosol production. Overall, these findings suggest that e-cigarettes can be designed to minimize exposure to these potentially harmful products.
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