Identification of flavouring substances of genotoxic concern present in e-cigarette refills

Sophia Barhdadi, Birgit Mertens, Melissa Van Bossuyt, Jolien Van De Maele, Roel Anthonissen, Michael Canfyn, Patricia Courselle, Vera Rogiers, Eric Deconinck, Tamara Vanhaecke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


E-cigarettes have become very popular, a trend that has been stimulated by the wide variety of available e-liquid flavours. Considering the large number of e-liquid flavours (> 7000), there is an urgent need to establish a screening strategy to prioritize the flavouring substances of highest concern for human health. In the present study, a prioritization strategy combining analytical screening, in silico tools and literature data was developed to identify potentially genotoxic e-liquid flavourings. Based on the analysis of 129 e-liquids collected on the Belgian market, 60 flavourings with positive in silico predictions for genotoxicity were identified. By using literature data, genotoxicity was excluded for 33 of them whereas for 5, i.e. estragole, safrole, 2-furylmethylketon, 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyl-3(2H)-furanone and transhexanal, there was a clear concern for in vivo genotoxicity. A selection of 4 out of the remaining 22 flavourings was tested in two in vitro genotoxicity assays. Three out of the four tested flavourings induced gene mutations and chromosome damage in vitro, whereas equivocal results were obtained for the fourth compound. Thus, although there is a legislative framework which excludes the use of CMR compounds in e-liquids, flavourings of genotoxic concern are present and might pose a health risk for e-cigarette users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111864
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Early online date18 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • (Q)SAR methodologies
  • Genotoxicity
  • e-cigarettes
  • mutagenicity

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of flavouring substances of genotoxic concern present in e-cigarette refills'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this