Is Diacetyl Vape Something You Need To Worry About?

Don’t panic! You may have heard something about a diacetyl vape being the worst thing since the plague but let’s step back, catch a deep breath, and take an honest look at what is going on here. There is a lot of hyperbole and sensationalism going on from vaping critics. That’s not to say diacetyl is something you should ignore; we are saying let’s introduce some facts and perspective. No sugar coating, just the straight goods.

diacetyl vape

The media frenzy about diacetyl in e-liquids started with a Harvard University study that found diacetyl in 75% of the e-liquid brands that they tested. We are going to cover that plus how diacetyl gets into some e-juices, what the concerns are, and we will also tell you where you can get vape juice without any diacetyl.

We also want to touch on any risks of vaping diacetyl. Vaping critics and media outlets looking for scary headlines have made diacetyl in e-liquid into proof of the dangers of vaping. The smoking gun they have been looking for! Hold on. Currently, there is no evidence that vaping diacetyl causes disease. Vaping Daily recommends we have an honest discussion. Let’s start at square one. What is diacetyl?

What Is Diacetyl?

Diacetyl is an organic compound that is a yellowish, green liquid with the chemical formula CH3CO2. It tastes like butter. Along with acetoin, diacetyl is the chemical that gives butter it’s flavoring. In fact, it is a byproduct of the fermentation process that is used to make dairy and other products. For example, you will find diacetyl in alcoholic beverages.

  • Diacetyl is an organic compound that gives butter it’s flavor. It is used as a butter flavoring in food production.

Diacetyl is considered safe for human consumption. Aside from being found in dairy and alcoholic drinks, diacetyl is used as a butter flavoring in other food products. It’s what makes margarin taste like butter. Eating diacetyl is considered to be perfectly safe. Diacetyl is how they get your microwave popcorn to taste savory and buttery. And those delicious buttery fumes from microwave popcorn is where the concern begins.
While you can eat foods that contain diacetyl to your heart’s content, inhaling it is where the trouble lies.

Popcorn Lung

Popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, is a severe lung disease. Damage to lung tissue traps air inside the lungs and makes breathing difficult. The name stems from incidents of the disease occurring in workers at a microwave popcorn factory. The CDC determined that the cause was breathing in the fumes of the diacetyl used for the butter flavoring.

The analysis showed that the popcorn factory workers were spending an entire shift in an area where the diacetyl in the air was measured at 18 parts per million. The constant, long-term exposure at that level was deemed to be a health hazard.

As a result of the CDC diacetyl analysis, OSHA instituted provisions for popcorn factory workers to wear protective equipment to avoid inhaling diacetyl. There was also a case of a Colorado man contracting the respiratory disease after eating microwave popcorn every day for ten years. Diacetyl is fine when eaten but inhaling too many diacetyl fumes is another matter.

The connection between inhaling diacetyl and bronchiolitis obliterans is why the Harvard study raised the alarm about a potential diacetyl vape problem in e-liquids.
Popcorn lung is very rare, with only a few cases besides the ones mentioned already, so it seems like the warning against diacetyl from vaping may be premature.

Harvard Study on Diacetyl In E-Liquid

The Harvard study that found diacetyl in e-liquid set off a media frenzy. Harvard University researchers found diacetyl in 75% of the e-liquids that they tested. They tested several flavors from each of eight different brands. There are e-liquid brands that were using diacetyl at the time. If they tested a brand that was using diacetyl, then every flavor would test positive skewing the numbers upward. When they say they found diacetyl in 39 of 51 samples, keep in mind that those 51 samples were from only eight different brands.

  • The Harvard study did find diacetyl in 39 of 51 e-liquid samples tested, but they only tested eight different brands.

Researchers did not conclude that a diacetyl vape will cause respiratory illness. What they did suggest was that their discovery indicated a need for further study. That is a reasonable position that makes sense. We do need more study on this issue. As a vaper, this is something you certainly deserve to be aware of.

To add some perspective here, studies have shown that when diacetyl has been detected in vapor, it was measured at a high 9.0 micrograms. The diacetyl level found in tobacco smoke has been measured at 335.9 micrograms. Cigarette smoke exposes tobacco users to exponentially higher diacetyl levels than e-cigarette vapor that contains diacetyl.

How Does Diacetyl Get Into E-Liquid

A diacetyl vape is a result of diacetyl being present in the flavoring of an e-liquid. How does that diacetyl get in there? It is in the flavor ingredients. The diacetyl is not a result of the VG, PG, or nicotine. Some flavorings offered by come e-cig companies contain diacetyl. Some of the flavors that have been reported to contain the chemical are cherry, custard, and pastry flavors.

Blending e-liquid is a job for professional chemists and needs to take place in a professional lab. For example, an ISO8 clean room is great, but you can’t put in an ISO8 air filter and think you have a legitimate clean room. A professional lab facility controls the entire air circulation and distribution system. Likewise, blending e-juice requires the attention of a trained chemist. Let me tell you why.

Many small companies and even vape shops are making e-juice. They may be well-intentioned but without the actual expertise required. If they buy bulk flavoring and the ingredient label says “Natural and artificial flavoring,” that may include diacetyl. Some e-liquid companies may not even know they are making vape juice with diacetyl. It takes a chemist to analyze and understand what is in vape juice.

It is easy to avoid a diacetyl vape by choosing an e-liquid that does not contain diacetyl or acetoin. Many of the best vape juice companies offer you plenty of diacetyl free options. And they back their claims with independent lab testing. If you want to be sure you are avoiding vaping diacetyl, look for those companies using professional labs and verified by independent lab tests.

Diacetyl Free Vape Juice

While there is no known connection between a diacetyl vape and lung conditions. But if you have any concern, the good news is that it is easy to avoid. Many of the best vape juice companies do not use diacetyl in any of their products. Also, companies like Halo and VaporFi utilize state of the art lab facilities staffed by professional chemists and technicians. They know what they are doing.

  • You can avoid diacetyl in vaping
  • Not all e-liquids have diacetyl
  • Look for e-juice companies that utilize professional labs
  • Look for independent lab reports verifying vape juice ingredients

As a consumer, another thing you can look for is transparency. Look for companies that post independent lab reports of their vape juice ingredients. That way you can make sure you are not vaping diacetyl.
In the UK diacetyl is already banned from vape juices and it may be followed in others countries shortly. So vaping without it is not a problem as it is not an essential ingredient in e-juice.

Here are three examples of companies that offer diacetyl free vape juice and publish independent lab reports to verify the quality and accuracy of their ingredients:

Halo and Evo Vape Juice

Halo vape juices are made in the USA. The lab facility in Gainesville, FL is state of the art. Every batch is recorded and tracked. There are dozens of flavors to choose from. The Halo line of e-liquids consists of tobacco and gourmet flavors. The Evo line of e-liquids are fruit flavors. You can choose the nicotine level and VG/PG ratio.

Black Note E-Liquid Naturally Extracted Flavor

Black Note e-liquids feature naturally extracted tobacco flavors. The process of extracting flavors takes eight weeks. The tobacco that the flavor is extracted from is grown in various fertile regions around the world. The company posts independent lab reports verifying there is no diacetyl in vaping Black Note.

VaporFi E-Juices and Custom Blends

VaporFi e-juices are made in an FDA registered lab, and every VaporFi formula recipe is on file with the FDA. Total transparency. You can choose the nicotine level and VG/PG ratio. You can also create custom flavors online.

Is Vaping Diacetyl Safe?

We have come full circle back to the beginning. Is vaping diacetyl safe? It may or may not impact human health. There is no evidence either way regarding diacetyl as a potential vaping risk. It is something to be aware of. As a consumer, you do have the option of selecting a diacetyl free vape.

  • There are no known cases of anyone getting popcorn lung disease from vaping.

If you compare how much diacetyl is present in vapor in the worst case and compare that to the average cigarette, there is 85 times more diacetyl in cigarette smoke. Any exposure from a diacetyl vape pales in comparison to the exposure from smoking. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. Perhaps even the most important thing to keep in mind.

Published: December 7, 2017 Updated: March 18, 2020

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Leave a comment

20 comments on “Is Diacetyl Vape Something You Need To Worry About?

  • M E. McCaig

    December 9, 2020 at 9:30 am

    THANK YOU !!!

  • Robin Woods

    September 24, 2019 at 6:07 am

    Are there any recent cases of popcorn lung reported in the UK, where diacetyl use is disallowed?

  • Phil

    August 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Very well written and informative.

  • Colby

    May 27, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks this makes me feel a bit better about my new pod vape.

  • Manraj

    March 2, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Better safe than sorry. Or best yet, stop cigarettes and stop vaping too later

  • Manraj Singh Sidhu

    March 2, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you so much. I read it all. Now I know where and from whom I should buy vape liquids. Note to add, we need to highlight the stronger addiction to vape nicotine. For very light smokers, it’s best not to change to vaping. I am more addicted to nicotine now than ever before.

  • The Chemonist

    February 18, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I farted today and degraded the air quality of the entire planet. Therefore farting is now banned. Anyone caught farting will be kicked off the planet.

  • Austin

    October 20, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Thank you very much for giving me actual facts about Diacetyl. Much appreciated. I will do more research to avoid diacetyl.

  • Tom Martinelli

    August 15, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Diacetyl should be banned from vape juice, period. It is a know hazard and industries are doing their very best to rid themselves of it.

  • chris

    July 28, 2018 at 5:39 am

    i think the above posters are jumping the gun a little – there is no evidence either way as it stands, plus for those that consume alcohol your consuming more than a vape outputs anyway, i think people are over reacting its a tiny amount of diacetyl just buy it with out – problem solved

  • Tom L

    July 22, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    I believe the vaping industry needs to regulate itself before the government does it for us more than already has happened.
    One big problem is that vaping is considered “a tobacco product”. Quite obviously there is NO tobacco in vape juice. I think it is critical to get that definition corrected.
    There is also a concern that some of the flavors and certainly labels are oriented towards kids. To some extent this is true. Candy flavors that have pictures like cartoons and candy and sugary cereals which are oriented towards kids. It might be wise to tone that down a bit.
    For certain EVERY bottle of ejuice needs to be childproof. It would only take a very small amount of vape juice to be ingested by a child to kill them.
    If the vaping industry does not do that themselves then it is that much more ammunition for those wanting to ban vaping. It is the right thing to do and would be ordered as a regulation by the government IF we were lucky.

    We are also having to fight the big tobacco lobby. While big tobacco is at the same time silently entering the vaping game as there is money to be had from lowered cigarettes profits they would still like more people to continue their addiction to cigarettes as it is much more profitable.
    Also if one is able to switch from smoking cigarettes daily to ONLY vaping which only took me 5 cigarettes to fully change over 3 years ago and since I have not had any desire to smoke a cigarette and am disgusted by them. In addition I began with 12mg nicotine then to 6mg and have been on 3mg for over a year at least. I have never truly felt a nicotine rush like that first cigarette in the morning. I know I am getting some nicotine but I just can not feel it at the low levels I ingest it. I enjoy vaping and I immediately started feeling better after the switch from cigarettes.
    I don’t have congested lungs and wheezing and cough up gross stuff. I don’t sting or any of the other negatives to smoking. But also if I wanted to stop it would have been difficult I think to just go from cigarettes to cold turkey. But I do think I could stop vaping if I wanted to. If there were a legitimate study that came out and after long term research there was some serious likely harm to vape the way I am doing at that time I would stop. I think that ultrasonic vaping has a future which would cut down on the heating of metals and that might be good too.

    But for now we have to make a choice for ourselves what we want to do. I enjoy vaping. I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs but I consider it a “vice” that I enjoy.
    I do treat vaping in the same way I do cigarettes when it comes to vaping in public. Aside from the fact the non-vapors likely have no idea what vaping is all about and all they see is what looks like big clouds of tobacco smoke (and while wrong it does contain nicotine) just have the courtesy to not be offensive to others.

    I say we make sure that any chemicals in vape juice be known and if they are a hazard such as I believe Diacetyl should be banned unless and until it is proven save for inhalation in the quantities that people who vape intake. Just because something is OK to put on your skin or ingest or one of many ways to apply a substance does not mean it is safe in all quantities and in every way it can be ingested. I don’t want that substance in my e juice I can tell you that.

    I was shocked to hear about the law for vape juice to be limited tobacco flavor and menthol flavor. I hate both. And that would be making the person vaping go back to the tobacco flavor and may decide to just go ahead and smoke. I don’t think that will happen I think it will be easily purchased regardless of stupid stupid laws such as that. But it shows the possibility for crazy things to be made in to laws is a present danger.

    So fight for your rights to control what you put in your own body. Make sure that vaping is characterized and explained accurately and fairly.
    Be respectful of others who don’t want to be around your vapor. Make it a top priority to demand child proof vape juice bottles. Little kids have already died because of ingesting vape juice. Even one death is too many when it can be prevented so easily. To not push for that is not going to look good on the part of people for vaping.
    And finally make sure that it is considered to be something that kids are not allowed to do at any age earlier than the legal age for smoking a cigarette. It is a law already on the books and while it is not the same as smoking when it comes to the use by minor being prohibited I think that is just fine. Growing brains don’t need booze and drugs destroying it before it has a chance to mature.

    • Rob.C

      October 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

      While it should never of happened, a single child died in 2014 after ingesting a bottle of 75% liquid nicotine, not ejuice. Child singular, and a product containing near pure nicotine, a far higher concentration of nicotine than is found in ejuice. Meanwhile children die every year from consuming regulated cleaning products, medicines, or fire arms left in easy reach.

      You can have all the regulation in the world, but it will not combat ignorant parents or inqusitive children/teens.

  • thomasterrible

    July 18, 2018 at 1:24 am

    I was very happy to find out about Diacetyl. If you don’t know about some potential hazard you can’t choose to avoid it.
    I am firmly convinced that vaping is vastly safer than smoking. Aside from the health aspects are the offensive odors and stains and such.
    I was not sure I would like vaping and so held off a long time before making an investment in something I may not like. Well after just 5 cigarettes I switched fully and that was 3 years ago and I never touched a cigarette since. I also started at 12mg nicotine then went down to 6 and now am at 3.
    I don’t feel the head rush of that first morning cigarette which is fine. I can’t say I really feel the nicotine at all as I am not a cloud chaser and like cool vapor.
    I can say that if I wanted to quit vaping I could so much easier than going from smoking to nothing. I vape because I enjoy it. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs so it is my one vice.
    I don’t think we will truly know the extent of the danger of vaping until down the road when enough time has passed for long term vapers can be studied.
    I do know that it did not take long before the nasty congested lungs and coughing up gross stuff from cigarette smoke stopped completely along with the wheezing and horrible sounds coming from my lungs. That is long gone and has to be good.

    I do think that we HAVE to keep vaping away from kids. AND we have to have our vape juice in child proof bottles as a small amount of ejuice a child could drink can kill them. YES KIDS CAN DIE FROM INGESTING TINY AMOUNTS OF EJUICE KEEP IT AWAY FROM THEM JUST AS YOU WOULD A LOADED GUN.

    It is also possible that vaping may keep on growing in the technology it uses. Things like eliminating the metals by using ultrasonic ways to make vapor. There is one unit on the market I know of right now but not good enough to use. It shows promise of something though.

    Flavors and labels DO very often look like the packaging for some silly candy. I don’t know how you regulate that but it is stupid to do.
    Also if it were mandated to have child proof containers and a certified laboratory testing of the ingredients listed and to ban any chemicals thought to be harmful is good.
    There are just far too many brands out there and very few tell you anything about the ingredients in detail. I want USA pharmaceutical grade nicotine for example. I want the best flavorings etc.. I don’t want the government doing insane things like forrcing us ot only vape tobacco or menthol flavored ejuices. Many of us started vaping to get away from tobacco and we are not using tobacco and many like me have learned to hate the taste of tobacco. Vape juice can contain nicotine but does NOT contain tobacco. It is NOT a tobacco product.
    I am sure big cigarette companies will lobby to harm the vaping industry as much as possible. They don’t care who they kill just that they make a buck. And they sneak in and are in the vaping business too without letting it be known publicly as they don’t want to miss out on a piece of the new pie.

    If there were a study to come out that I trusted and said that vaping was a serious enough health risk the way I use it I would stop. I would not like it but I could as I am not addicted to such a low amount of nicotine.

    What is legal is often not based on what is good for ones health but what is good for some corporations pocket book. Like cigarettes and alcohol.
    Finally States like Washington have made marijuana legal. No police arresting someone for having a substance that is NOT TOXIC in any amount. Canada has legalized it for their entire Country. With all the violence and death from the cartels bringing in low quality weed but the ton over the border and only about 5% at most gets stopped it makes MUCH more sense to make it legal in the US and collect taxes and use the money wisely and that would take away the money from the cartels so they would not have any motivation to smuggle weed and take border patrol resources to catch them at that. Of course there are many other hard drugs that they can then focus on.

    I realize that is getting off topic but the point I am making is about what substances are legal and which are not and why.
    Also to not foret to keep children’s growing brains away from ANY negative substance period.

    And for vaping in public. Sure don’t vape where people don’t smoke. If for no other reason that people not familiar with vaping see no difference.
    but it is offensive to them and they are worried about the health of themselves and their children so you have to respect that. But what a great thing it is to be able to stay inside your bedroom and vape all you want and not have the smell stick around like smoking one puff off a cigarette would. We don’t have to go outside many times a day to feed that addiction.
    Vape Smart!

  • Ryan G

    June 12, 2018 at 1:05 am

    While I agree that more research needs to be done about vaping so that common sense legislation may be put in place, I think that a few big points are being lost in the sauce. From every indication, every reputable study, and the simple mechanics of the actual use….. vaping is healthier than smoking. It’s healthier for the user for the people around the user and for everyone in general. While there should be more going into studies, nobody should be countering the idea that it’s at least not as bad for you as smoking is. There is a lot of energy going into the two extremes. Whether it’s the treat it just like cigarettes side or the let vape be free and unregulated side. How about instead of that we agree that it’s not as bad as smoking but still may have side effects that we haven’t yet made the connection to. I used vaping to quit smoking. I had been a pack a day smoker for 15 years. I enjoy the candy fruity flavors that are “marketed to kids.” They don’t smell bad to those around me and they taste better than any tobacco flavored anything would taste. Unfortunately just like open carry gun laws in some states, people who vape like assholes in the middle of a business or restaurants or in situations that using common sense would be disrespectful, have left such a bad impression that public outcry has reached an overreaching tipping point. Please don’t judge the many by the one. Please don’t just decide that any regulation thrown out there is better than none. I know common sense isn’t that common these days but by labeling everyone the same based on a knee jerk reaction, it does a disservice to everyone. At the end of the day, everything points to the idea that if everyone who smokes turned to vape, the world would benefit. Even if they benefit only extended to those around the smokers, it’s a step in the right direction

  • fred

    April 28, 2018 at 8:56 am

    You admit it’s toxic. Just that it’s less toxic than cigs. On that basis, would you agree with me that vaping should be banned in e.g. offices, restaurants, schools, hospitals, in the same way smoking is? Obviously, if you’re an ex-smoker, inhaling something that is not as harmful as cigs is an improvement. However, for me as a non-smoker, secondary and tertiary exposure to your “better” is my “worse”. Of course e-cigs shouldn’t be banned outright, but it’s bullshit that they are not regulated like cigs. See:

    Our study confirms that e-cigarette aerosol is a major source of indoor
    air pollution of PM10, TVOCs, and air nicotine, which impairs indoor air
    quality. Attendees and vendors are exposed to high concentrations of
    hazardous pollutants during a vaping convention. The findings raise an
    occupational concern for e-cigarette vendors who attend vaping conventions
    on a regular basis in addition to being exposed at local vape shops during
    working hours, as well as other venue workers such as food vendors and
    cleaning personnel. Furthermore, extremely high concentrations of
    e-cigarette aerosol may cause third-hand exposure, since it can be expected
    that the surfaces in the exhibition hall become impregnated with deposited
    aerosol (solvents and nicotine), and nicotine exposure may happen via
    direct skin contact.

    • John

      July 27, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      It already is banned in almost every place that cigarettes are.

    • Jackson

      September 4, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Vaping is banned in a lot of places already.

    • Rob.C

      October 27, 2018 at 8:32 am

      A little less drama and overeaction if you don’t mind.

      The report found: “We evaluated concerns about exposure to vaping-related chemicals in a vape shop. Exposure to flavoring chemicals (diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, acetaldehyde), formaldehyde, nicotine, and propylene glycol were all below occupational exposure limits.

  • Steve

    March 30, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Finally it’s about time. Well prepared factual article. Thank you!

    • Lucreatia DeStefano

      January 5, 2020 at 11:14 am

      Remove my address from all your mailings