By Leah M. McMorris and Evan R. Hoffman
Calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette and vaping liquids have risen dramatically over the past four years. In 2013, over 1,000 calls linked to liquid nicotine exposure were reported in the United States. In 2014, that number surpassed 3,800. In 2013, Minnesota alone had 50 reported children poisonings from e-liquid, a ten-fold increase from 2012. In December a toddler in upstate New York who drank a vial of liquid nicotine died – the first death of a child from swallowing vaping liquid.
Nicotine is an acute toxin, meaning that adverse effects occur immediately or within a very short period of time after ingestion. Exposure to nicotine by swallowing or contact with the skin can result in nausea and vomiting, as well as respiratory arrest, seizures, and even death. A lethal dosage of nicotine is considered to be between 1 and 13 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The nicotine levels in most e-liquids range between 1.8 and 24 percent, though they can be as high as 10 percent. For a 200-pound adult, a teaspoon of 1.8 percent nicotine concentrated e-liquid may be fatal. For a small child, the fatal amount is significantly lower.
There is no government regulation of e-liquids, although the FDA has proposed regulations. No regulation of manufacture, no government testing, no government specifications. Most manufacturers do not disclose the ingredients in their vape liquids on the label. We know that most e-cigarette liquids contain nicotine, flavoring, and solvents, but the actual ingredients of most products are unknown.
Children may be particularly vulnerable to nicotine poisoning, attracted by the kid-friendly flavors – like fruit, candy, and food – and colorful packaging of e-cigarettes and vape pens. Compounding the hazard of attractive colors and images, many e-liquid manufacturers do not use child-proof caps or tamper proof packaging. A few states have already enacted legislation requiring child-resistant packaging for e-liquid (Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Davis County, Utah) and federal legislation has been introduced. Massachusetts has no legislation regarding child resistant packaging for e-liquids. Enacting legislation to require manufacturers to use child-resistant packing is an important step in protecting young children who may be drawn to the colors and images on the packaging from experiencing the potentially lethal effects of liquid nicotine poisoning.
Many e-liquid manufacturers do not adequately warn consumers about the hazards associated with liquid nicotine exposure. At Thornton Law Firm, we have represented victims of chemical and substance exposures for 40 years. We are currently investigating nicotine liquid poisoning. If you have any questions about these potentially harmful products, please call 888-491-9726 to speak with a Thornton Law attorney today, or contact Thornton Law Firm online for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your legal rights.