Doctors warn about risks of second hand e-cigarette vapors

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Doctors are warning about the potential dangers of second-hand smoke from electronic cigarettes as the number of cases of lung injury related to smoking e-cigarettes continues to rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted more than 2,200 cases of patients who have experienced lung injuries after using an e-cigarette and at least 48 deaths as of early December, but doctors say even people who aren't smoking the devices experience risk from exposure.

"You are getting toxic chemicals, you're getting carcinogenic chemicals that are released in this mainstream smoke," said Dr. Karen Wilson, the Debra and Leon Black Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Those are things that we know can trigger asthma and cause other respiratory illnesses and can be dangerous."

Dr. Wilson said babies and toddlers under the supervision of an adult using an e-cigarette bear a heightened risk for health concerns related to second hand smoke exposure.

She added that teen exposure is also a concern.

"If you're exposed to nicotine, even if you haven't smoked combusted tobacco, it actually up-regulates those receptors and you become addicted," Dr. Wilson said.

Dr. Wilson is concerned about the number of teens picking up the habit.

According to the CDC, in a recent survey of middle school and high school students, more than half reported being exposed to second-hand e-cigarette vapors.

Additionally, this year, more than one out of every four high school students reported using an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days.

The statistic marks a significant increase in use since 2011, when just about one out of 100 high school students reported e-cigarette use.

"We don't know what's going to happen in 20 years to the people that are vaping," Dr. Wilson said. "We have no idea what kind of lung injury they're going to have."

Dr. Wilson says she anticipates doctors will discover similar long-term consequences from second-hand aerosol vapors as they have with second-hand smoke from a traditional cigarette.

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