Tag Archive for: Lead contamination

Toxic metals, carcinogenic substances, and much more nicotine than is legally allowed. That’s what’s in vapes that are frequently smoked by Dutch youngsters, according to research by RTL Nieuws. We examined unwrapped vapes that ten high schools from across the country sent to our editors upon request. Experts call the results “extremely worrisome”. “This research shows for the first time that Dutch children are using vapes that are poisoning their own bodies and brains.”

“Some of the results are bizarre”, states Remco Westerink, a toxicologist at Utrecht University, after studying the findings. “If you consider that children with undeveloped brains use it, this is really a harmful product.”

Many Dutch people vape, even at a very young age. October revealed that one in five young people between 12 and 25 had vaped at some point in the past year, ranging from once a month to every day. This is partly why the government introduced stricter regulations: since Jan. 1, it has been illegal to sell a flavored vape. Yet it is still easy to get one, which is why many young people still do it.

Vaping is not allowed in most high schools, which is why they have a rule that teachers take away vapes if students are caught smoking an e-cigarette.

Liquid and vapor tested

RTL News asked high schools across the country if they would send the vapes they picked up to our editors. We had a selection of them examined by a specialized laboratory in Liverpool, UK. There, the liquid in the vapes was analyzed and the vapor inhaled when smoking the vape was tested. This shows the following:

  • 8 of the 20 vapes contained (much) more nicotine than permitted by law
  • Formaldehyde was found in 7 of the 20 vapes
  • Lead was found in 3 of the 20 vapes
  • All 20 vapes had a larger content than allowed by law
  • Nickel, acetone, iron, acrolein, valeraldehyde, and butyraldehyde were also found in several vapes

But what does this mean? Toxicologist Westerink is clear about that: “This shows that there are many different harmful substances in vapes. That is worrying in itself, but when you consider that these vapes were used by children with still developing brains, this is really a harmful product.”

As much nicotine in one vape as hundreds of cigarettes

That there was too much nicotine in the vape in almost half of the cases is one of the most striking findings, according to Westerink. “There are even vapes among them with an amount of nicotine from 200 to 400 cigarettes.” And that can lead to major problems. For example, nicotine can interfere with brain development, cause concentration problems and mood swings, and is very addictive.

In fact, one vape tested contained 11 times more nicotine than the legally permitted amount of 20 milligrams per milliliter of liquid. Westerink: “If you keep smoking such a vape continuously, and would finish it in one go, it is without a doubt serious for your health and it could even be deadly.”

“This is unbelievable”

Esther Croes, a tobacco expert at the Trimbos Institute, is “horrified” by these numbers. “20 milligrams, the legal maximum and intended for smokers, is already bizarre for children. But these vapes are also much larger than allowed and have much more nicotine. That’s indescribable. And then they are also produced and sold in an attractive form to children.”

The Trimbos Institute knows from questionnaire surveys that many Dutch youths vape and foreign research recently revealed that there may be harmful substances in vapes. Croes states that RTL News’ research “brings these two data together for the first time.

“Now it is rock solid evidence that the vapes used by Dutch children also contain so many harmful substances. Heavy metals, huge amounts of nicotine, and other toxic and carcinogenic substances. Your research shows that Dutch children are poisoning their bodies and brains with these vapes.”

Lead found in three vapes

In addition to the large amounts of nicotine, toxicologist Westerink calls it extremely problematic that lead was found in the vapes used by children. “Lead is a heavy metal, a toxic substance which is particularly harmful to the development of the brain. In addition, it can cause a decrease in IQ of up to five points. You really don’t want this in vapes.”

Possibly the lead is released through the heating coil, wires, and solder joints in the vape, explains researcher Tom Coleman of the Inter Scientific laboratory: “For example, some solder in vapes is of a cheaper, poorer quality with more lead. We typically see that in vapes from manufacturers from China.”

Also formaldehyde: a carcinogen

The substance formaldehyde, normally used as a disinfectant, is also likely to be released during the burning process in the vape. The aggressive substance was found in 7 of the 20 vapes examined. Westerink: “This is dangerous. At high doses, this is a carcinogenic substance that can damage cells. Of course, you don’t want children to ingest this either. Even at low doses, it can cause respiratory irritation and inflame the airways.”

Toxicologist Jan Tytgat also looked at the research results at the request of RTL News. Working at the Belgian University in Leuven and specializing in e-cigarettes, he also states that formaldehyde is a carcinogen. He additionally calls it a substance of concern “that you should absolutely avoid.”

According to him, the same goes for the other substances found in the vapes: “Nickel can cause all kinds of allergies. Acrolein is an irritant to the skin and lungs. And acetone can cause headaches, confusion, and a feeling of unease.”

In addition, all of the vapes examined had a larger capacity than allowed by law. Simply put, a vape may hold 600 puffs, but all the vapes examined were well above that. Some even had 15,000 puffs.

Westerink calls the research “an eye opener”: “Despite the ban, these flavored vapes can still be found in the schoolyard. That it now turns out that there are these harmful substances in there, sometimes in high quantities, hopefully, helps raise awareness that a vape is not a safe but an extremely undesirable product.”

“We must protect children to the maximum”

Esther Croes of Trimbos agrees: “These are substances that can turn your body upside down for the rest of your life because they can cause damage in all sorts of places in your body. Together we must protect children to the maximum and do everything we can to make them resilient. After all, our youth have a whole future ahead of them and must be able to grow up healthy. These results emphasize that we do have a real problem in the Netherlands.”

Source: RTL.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire 2019

Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of France’s most famous landmarks. Located on Île de la Cité island in Paris, its construction took nearly 200 years and was completed in the 14th century. On April 15th, 2019, a fire ravaged its roof and its spire, spreading around huge amounts of lead. French President Emmanuel Macron then pledged to rebuild the cathedral before the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Contamination During and After the Fire

Prior to the fire, the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, undergoing renovations at the time, held approximately 460 tons of lead. It is estimated that 150kg of lead was released into the smoke during the fire. Following the accident, surface soil samples were collected within a 1 km radius of the cathedral, and air quality measurements were conducted at a station located 50km from the cathedral. The results indicated elevated levels of lead.

In the aftermath of the fire, the AFVS (Association of Families Victims of Lead Poisoning) embarked on a campaign to warn the population about the risks of lead exposure. Mathé Toullier, president of the association, and Annie Thébaud-Mony, a health sociologist, explained that few precautions were taken during and after the fire: on-site firefighters and police did not wear appropriate protection, nor did the employees mobilized afterward to clear the debris. Lead concentrations during the cleanup sometimes reached levels 100 to 1000 times higher than those recommended by the Public Health Regulations. A specialized decontamination design office commissioned by the Ministry of Culture also recommended the cathedral’s lockdown and decontamination, a project finally buried to the detriment of public health.

In a research article published in GeoHealth, Alexander Van Geen, a professor at Columbia University, states:
“Our surface soil data collected 9–10 months after the fire show that the population residing within 1 km and downwind of the fire was probably considerably more exposed to Pb fallout, albeit for a brief period, than indicated by measurements and surveys conducted by local authorities weeks to months later.”

Protecting Children: What Measures?

After the fire, few measures were taken to protect children from the risks of lead exposure: no health instructions in nurseries and schools, and it took months for lead blood level tests to be conducted in children.

As reported by the Basta! newspaper, during the summer following the fire, samples were taken in several schools at the request of families and associations. In certain playgrounds, lead levels were found to be 5 to 18 times higher than the average in the streets of the capital. The affected schools were temporarily closed for cleaning of the premises.

In children, 50% of ingested lead is absorbed, compared to 5 to 10% in adults. Children are particularly vulnerable because they often put their hands to their mouths, and also because their nervous and skeletal systems are still developing. Lead exposure can create behavioral disorders, hearing and growth troubles, leading to abdominal pain, fatigue, memory loss, learning difficulties, anorexia, sleep disorders, and anxiety.

A Reconstruction that Raises Concerns

President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to rebuild the cathedral before the opening of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Donations poured in from all around the world to fund the monument’s reconstruction.

On April 15th, 2024, five years after the fire, members of the AFVS association along with other activists gathered in front of the cathedral to protest against the presence of lead in the monument’s reconstruction. Indeed, despite health risks, the government decided that the cathedral’s roof and spire should be rebuilt identically, using lead.

This decision appears perplexing on multiple fronts. Firstly, people are aware of the toxicity of lead. Secondly, less hazardous alternatives such as zinc could readily serve as substitutes. Thirdly, given the likely lead exposure and potential health impact caused by the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, this decision seems even more puzzling. Haven’t we learned anything from this? It’s ironic, especially because the French Social Security system recognizes lead poisoning as a work-related illness!

Sources: GeoHealth, Santé Publique France, ActuParis, Basta!