A germ-killing vapor

Discussion in 'Health, Safety and Vaping' started by TropicalBob, Aug 5, 2008.

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  1. TropicalBob

    TropicalBob Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Jan 13, 2008
    Port Charlotte, FL USA
    Far from posing a threat to our health, the propylene glycol in e-smoking liquids might help keep us healthy. It would accomplish that by its germicidal action. It kills many of the major bacteria that threaten lung entry into our bodies.

    Until yesterday, I was unfamiliar with this potentially beneficial consequence of propylene glycol vapor.

    Back in the late '30s, researchers at the University of Chicago stumbled onto its effectiveness as a germ-killer, as related in this Time magazine story from Nov. 16, 1942:

    "A powerful preventive against pneumonia, influenza and other respiratory diseases may be promised by a brilliant series of experiments conducted during the last three years at the University of Chicago's Billings Hospital. Dr. Oswald Hope Robertson last week was making final tests with a new germicidal vapor — propylene glycol — to sterilize air. If the results so far obtained are confirmed, one of the age-old searches of man will finally achieve its goal...

    "...the researchers found that the propylene glycol itself was a potent germicide. One part of glycol in 2,000,000 parts of air would — within a few seconds — kill concentrations of air-suspended pneumococci, streptococci and other bacteria numbering millions to the cubic foot.

    "How did it work? Respiratory disease bacteria float about in tiny droplets of water breathed, sneezed and coughed from human beings. The germicidal glycol also floats in infinitesimally small particles. Calculations showed that if droplet had to hit droplet, it would take two to 200 hours for sterilization of sprayed air to take place. Since sterilization took place in seconds, Dr. Robertson concluded that the glycol droplets must give off gas molecules which dissolve in the water droplets and kill the germs within them.

    "Dr. Robertson placed groups of mice in a chamber and sprayed its air first with propylene glycol, then with influenza virus. All the mice lived. Then he sprayed the chamber with virus alone. All the mice died."

    The complete Time story can be read here: Air Germicide - TIME

    In a scientific summary of the discovery, it was noted that "Tests on possible deleterious effects of breathing propylene glycol containing atmospheres over long periods of time are being carried out."

    Those tests were done and a second summary report on propylene glycol vapor was released:

    "Propylene glycol is harmless to man when swallowed or injected into the veins. It is also harmless to mice who have breathed it for long periods. But medical science is cautious — there was still a remote chance that glycol might accumulate harmfully in the erect human lungs which, unlike those of mice, do not drain themselves. So last June Dr. Robertson began studying the effect of glycol vapor on monkeys imported from the University of Puerto Rico's School of Tropical Medicine. So far, after many months' exposure to the vapor, the monkeys are happy and fatter than ever. Dr. Robertson does not expect mankind to live, like his monkeys, continuously in an atmosphere of glycol vapor; but it should be most valuable in such crowded places as schools and theaters, where most respiratory diseases are picked up."

    The monkeys lived in enclosures filled with propylene glycol vapor. No deleterious effect was ever reported. And the concentrations of PG we inhale on a regular basis surely must equal the amount inhaled by the monkeys for this test. Obviously, no scientist saw a time when a device would atomize a PG mist that would then be inhaled for fun. But time and technology has given us the electronic cigarette. With each inhalation, we are washing our lungs with a germicidal agent used today in some "air sanitizers".

    Glycerine, by the way, has some germicidal impact, but not, apparently, to the degree provided by inhaling propylene glycol vapor. Glycerine is now used by dairy farmers to help prevent bacteria entering a cow's teats after milking. Glycerine both softens the teats and kills bacteria.

    One more quote on PG: "The vapour from as little as 0.5 mg of propylene glycol can kill nearly all the microorganisms in a liter of heavily contaminated air within 15 seconds."

    The initial experiments with PG vapor were part of a search to find ways to create clean rooms, so the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed so many millions would never be repeated. Today, researchers have wondered online if propylene glycol vapor might not offer protection against a widely feared coming pandemic of bird flu, tagged H5N1.

    Imagine e-smokers being healthier than non-smokers in such a scenario.
  2. jimldk

    jimldk Super Member ECF Veteran

    wow!!..good find TB..that will become useful for me...no wonder I didn't get the flu even though I was exposed badly during the recent bout of flu epidemic...and none of my e-smoking patients get sick too during that period...I was wondering about it , now at least I know why ...Thanks Big Brother for all the hard work digging all this up, you are a true gem.....
    Anita Deysel likes this.
  3. Kit

    Kit Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 24, 2008
    Wow TB your credit to this forum.
  4. Kate

    Kate Moved On

    Jun 26, 2008
    That's really good news TBob. I hadn't reckoned on being healthier because of vapour. Is there a danger of the vapour killing off the friendly bacteria our bodies need for healthy balance? Maybe those are only important for digestion, I don't know.

    I noticed that ecig.com are selling 'health' eliquid that has vitamins or something in it. Is it likely that this is a good way to administer health supplements? I have to admit to being sceptical about this but if it does work then it's another argument for our habit being a good one.
  5. Nazareth

    Nazareth Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 14, 2008
    Not to rain on good news, but hopefully htis won't lead to superbugs that can't be controled by antibiotics- probably it won't, but bacteria are quite efficient at surviving crisis situations and readapting to hostile environments which would be provided by the PG sterilization- I know, I know, there's always a fly in the ointment

    However, protecting against sdomethign like virus like hte bird flu, or any number of lfues that are one shot deals,, thism ight just be the ticket hopefully
  6. dnakr

    dnakr Ultra Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jan 25, 2008
    Virginia, USA
    Wow TB that is very impressive. Not only are we getting healthier - we are able to fight off some respiratory diseases.

    A friend of my husband's has COPD and I have been reluctant to recommend the e-cig to him but now I wonder if it could help?
  7. windblown

    windblown Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 24, 2008
    Holy Cow, TB, this seems like such a significant discovery that I'm having a hard time trying to understand why there hasn't been a LOT more research on it. It would seem that it has kind of fallen between the cracks over the last 65 years. Unless, of course, there is something we don't know yet. I keep scratching my head wondering if I am missing something.
  8. sanneke

    sanneke Moved On

    May 28, 2008
    Thanks for this info Bob.

    I have a stupid question though.
    Is it not good to get a cold, and build up antibiotics in ones body?
  9. TropicalBob

    TropicalBob Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Jan 13, 2008
    Port Charlotte, FL USA
    I spent most of yesterday, deep into the night, trying to find refutation of the reports. Didn't find it. But at the time of that study, filling a room with propylene glycol vapor was a pretty fanciful idea. Impractical, to say the least. And we all know that it's a fact that PG mists irritate some individuals. So studies moved on to other ideas. Today, we have a way to fill individual lungs -- ours -- with it. We can choose to use or not use.

    For someone like Dr. Loi, it would add a second profound health reason for governmental agencies to support e-smoking:

    1. If cigarette smokers moved to e-smoking, the reduction in disease and premature death would be staggering.

    2. If propylene glycol vapor inhalation could prevent the full spread of some epidemic diseases, the savings -- in misery and money -- would boggle the mind.

    We are going to need scientific reasons in support of the devices we now use and love. For me, however, this discovery of the studies provided a peace of mind that what we're inhaling is not only safe, but could be beneficial. And Dr. Loi's experiences with his patients during a flu outbreak would seem to point that way.

    Let a new round of studies begin!
  10. phylo

    phylo Resting In Peace ECF Veteran

    Jul 25, 2008
    Santa Cruz Ca.
    Wow TB, what an awesome find!

    The folks on this board never cease to amaze me with the amount of information that they scrap up...

    Keep up the great work!

  11. NerdyCinderella

    NerdyCinderella Super Member ECF Veteran

    May 14, 2008
    Gotham City
    Just got around to reading this post TB.
    I think now we should keep a tally of members who:
    1) experience weight gains - lol
    2) experience or don't, cold or flu symptoms since they started e-smoking.

    PS I'm only serious re #2
  12. BananaDoc

    BananaDoc Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Well Dr. Robertson was excited enough to patent an apparatus to control same...


    However, like WindBlown, my only question is the dearth of medical research articles on his work for the past 65 years... this would seem kinda big.... Bigger than a Time article in 1942. I think the same issue may have pointed out the benefits of switching to menthol cigarettes to overcome chest congestion due to the common cold....
  13. TropicalBob

    TropicalBob Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Jan 13, 2008
    Port Charlotte, FL USA
    Bananadoc: When I posted about this study, I had a link to the PDF of the scientific article (I edited out the link and no longer have it!). Those science articles are so boring and complex that I was delighted to find the Time article, essentially saying in plain language what the science article said in $10 words. That's why I used it.

    I can't explain a dearth of research since the decade between about 1941 and 1951, but can say that many articles I wanted to read on this topic are on "pay" sites and are thus restricted to doctors. Very frustrating for lay researchers for it to be this way.

    If anyone finds something saying this research is in any way untrue, please post a link. I don't think it has been refuted, but there never has been any money to be made with a PG room vaporizing device, so no one cared whether it worked or not. It yielded to ultraviolet lights in every bakery, etc.
  14. Mihai

    Mihai Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2008
    there was no money to make from this, there is no patent on PG, so who would bother. I'm pretty sure there are plenty of cheap products that can do a lot of good but who would pay for all the costs involved in clinical trials and research?

    Dr Loi can tell you better, from direct experience - what he does is mostly voluntary work. He is a bit lucky that his government didn't cut completely his research funds. If they do that how long can he continue doing it?
  15. phylo

    phylo Resting In Peace ECF Veteran

    Jul 25, 2008
    Santa Cruz Ca.
    TB would you PM me the link's to the pay sites.. I know a few doctors who are familiar with e-cigs and may have access to the sites.
    Its definitely worth a shot.

  16. TropicalBob

    TropicalBob Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Jan 13, 2008
    Port Charlotte, FL USA
    I can do that, but I'd have to start over. I came to this discovery via a circuitous path, as I was researching PH and its relationship to nicotine absorption by mouth and lungs. I found one link to the germicidal nature of propylene glycol. What? Then I Google-searched "propylene glycol bactericidal" and, bingo, here came a pretty good list of sites. A doctor will know which are subscription sites.
  17. phylo

    phylo Resting In Peace ECF Veteran

    Jul 25, 2008
    Santa Cruz Ca.
    Ill start googling away..

  18. TropicalBob

    TropicalBob Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Jan 13, 2008
    Port Charlotte, FL USA
    Thanks, Phil. The more brains on these matters, the better.
  19. windblown

    windblown Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 24, 2008
    I came across another reference to the PG as germicide in a 1944 Atlantic Monthly article. There doesn't seem to be anything new here, except that it was later confirmed in England. Can't recall if you already mentioned that TB.

    This is absolutely fascinating to me, but unfortunately I have to be out of town for the next few days. Will have to leave it to you guys until I get back. Maybe by then you will have cured the common cold, bird flu and pneumonia. Keep up the good work! :thumb:

    Here is the link and an excerpt from the article. Again, I apologize if this has already been mentioned, but gotta pack so I don't have time to read back through the previous posts.

    How Bad is the Flu?

    "The theory of their action is simply that a small amount of a chemical which is known to be germicidal be finely dispersed into the atmosphere. Water was not a satisfactory solvent, partly because of its rapid evaporation, and for that reason propylene glycol, a pretty name with which everyone will probably soon be familiar, was used to carry a number of germicides, including Dakin's solution. The English, hard-pressed to improve conditions in their air-raid shelters, which sometimes, as in Bristol, were in deep caves or old tunnels, used aerosols with evident success.
    By the crab-like motion which characterizes so many scientific advances, it was then found that propylene glycol alone was highly effective. As little as one part of this substance, in the form of an aerosol, was active in at least several million volumes of air. Its effectiveness against both bacteria and viruses was established in this country by Oswald II. Robertson and his associates at the University of Chicago and later confirmed in England."
  20. BananaDoc

    BananaDoc Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Hey Mate, You peaked my interest, so I spent a bit of time in the “virtual” stacks… Haven’t found anything vis-à-vis PG and airborne vapor bactericide in any lit after to 1950. Which is … odd.

    I went to the original article and did not find that referenced a lot. Again, strange.

    FYI, I have access to pretty much EVERYTHING journal article-wise. If there are things you want—email me!
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