PEG 400: AN OVERVIEW
If you have been following the news much, you might know about vaping. This is the new approach to consuming such things as nicotine and cannabis that avoids traditional smoking. Why is this? Because it is considered that inhaling smoke is dangerous to health. So what do you do in its place? You vape your stuff. That solves the problem, doesn’t it?
Not quite. You still have to figure out what your base liquid will be, and that can still make a difference between safe and dangerous. So what does PEG 400 have to do with it?
In this article, I will tell you about PEG 400 and how it is different from other options you will run into in the market. I also tell you about its various uses and particularly its use in vaping.
What is PEG 400?
PEG is short for polyethylene glycol, a liquid that is colorless as well as vicious. It can be dissolved in many other liquids such as water, along with alcohol and glycerin. It can also dissolve in acetone, benzene, and glycols.
PEG 400 is just one form of PEG with its number specifying its average molecular weight. Different PEG forms have chemical structures that are in the form of chains, some longer than others. The longer chains have higher numbers. PEG 400 falls in the lower side of these at its molecular weight is not high. The different molecular weights are what contribute to the different viscosity levels of PEG. Therefore the weights can be adjusted to achieve the desired level of viscosity. Beyond this, however, all PEG, regardless of weight, have the same properties.
What are the benefits of PEG 400? PEG 400 has various benefits which extend to many areas
- It has less hazardous materials compared to smoke – smoke from nicotine has more than 7000 different chemicals, the majority of which are toxic. It’s not known exactly how many chemicals are produced by an electronic cigarette, but it’s believed it’s not as many.
- Can be used in for various substances such as nicotine and cannabis smoking
- PEG 400 can be used as a food additive as it is safe. The FDA rates it as Generally regarded as safe.
- It is added as a lubricant in tablets and capsules. This helps to make them easier to swallow. Examples include Pegintron
- As an ink solvent, it is used in some kinds of desktop printers. For example, the HP design jet printers use it to lubricate the print heads
- It can be used as a sweetener. Hence it can be used to carry flavor. It is added to vaping products to hold different flavor options such as nicotine and non-nicotine flavor.
- Uses as a binder in the process of making ceramics products
- Used in some kinds of toothpaste as a dispersant. This is a process that evenly distributed particles in a suspension. This is useful to block particles from clumping or settling.
- Safer than MCT oils since its boiling point is higher
- Can be used as a laxative and also to treat the bowel via colonoscopy
- Excellent for preserving recovered objects from underwater. For example, the warship Vasa, a Swedish vessel that sunk in August 1628, was salvaged in 1961 near Stockholm. It was sprayed with PEG for an incredible 17 years. It was then allowed to dry, which is still ongoing to the present times. The preserved condition of the ship has allowed it to become a tourist attraction drawing more than 35 million visitors since 1961. This method has been adopted for preserving other wooden salvaged ships
- Its derivatives like narrow range ethoxylates have been used as surfactants. These are substances that act as excellent detergents and wetting agents. They also make good foaming agents and emulsifiers.
- It has been used as a propellant for Trident II. This is a ballistic missile that is launched by a submarine used by the US Air Force.
- PEG can also help detect antigens and antibodies more efficiently
- Many skin creams use PEG as a base
What is vaping?
Vaping is a new style for nicotine and cannabis users to take their substances without smoking. To do this, you start with an e-liquid that is vaporized by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette).
Vaping has become widespread because the popularity of E-cigarette has shot up in the US, especially among the youth. It has overtaken other methods of consuming nicotine or tobacco products. In 2015, its use went up by a whopping 900% among high school pupils in the US. Moreover, an increasing number of first-time users of nicotine or tobacco have never smoked but are taking to vaping.
But what’s the best e-liquid for vaping? PEG 400 isn’t the only one, but there are two other base liquids. Let’s look at how they stack up against PEG 400 so that you can decide whether to go with PEG 400 or not.
How to use an e-cigarette
An e-cigarette consists of a gadget with a long tube meant to mimic a cigarette, a pen, or a pipe. Generally, they can be reused, fitted with cartridges that can be replaced and refilled. Other e-cigarettes, however, are disposable.
It was Herbert A. Gilbert, who in 1963 came up with a patent for a non-tobacco cigarette that was smokeless. However, it was left to Chinese inventor and pharmacist Hon Lek to come up with the first e-cigarette. From its first appearance in 2006 until now, more than 400 brands have hit the market.
The e-cigarette features
- The heating element or atomizer
- A battery that can be recharged
- Electronic circuits
As you suck on the mouthpiece, the heating element is turned on by a sensor. This heats up and vaporizes the liquid solution that is contained in the mouthpiece. You can then inhale or vape the vapor which is, also called aerosol.
Also known as e-juice, E-liquid is what gets turned into vapor and then inhaled by the vaper or user to get a similar sensation as smoking. It is heated by the battery-powered atomizer, which vaporizes it. But your liquid solution must have two parts to it.
- Atomizing base
To give the nicotine effect, liquid nicotine is incorporated. However, if vaping aims to help the user quit smoking or kill a nicotine addiction, no nicotine is included in the solution. Hopefully, the user will then be able to kick his addiction but continue enjoying the vaping experience without any nicotine. The e-liquid is typically diluted with additives like alcohol, vodka, or water as it can become too viscous to allow vaping.
Here is where we get to choose what diluent base will go into an e-liquid. For any e-liquid formulation, the diluent base forms the biggest part, which is almost between 80% to 90% of the formula.
The best-known e-cigarette diluents are
- PG (propylene glycol)
- Vegetable glycerin (VG)
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG 400)
Out of these, PG is the most preferred base compound, followed by VG. PEG 400 happens to be least preferred. Let us find out why.
- PG – This compound first came into use in the 1950s. It was used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers. When it comes to atomized medicine, PG has become a big favorite since it is perfect at holding water. Moreover, the FDA lists it under the agents it deems to be GRAS or Generally Recognized to be Safe. The more PG is, added, the stronger the flavor you get. This is also known as the throat hit.
- VG or vegetable glycerin is an excellent sweetener and is much more viscous than PG. Because of its thickness, it is typically blended with PG to provide vapor that is more consistent and thicker.
- PEG is quite similar to PG in terms of its chemical properties. However, it is least used in e-cigarettes because it is widely thought to be more hazardous to health.
Flavoring – E-liquids also feature a wide variety of flavors. These include
- Virginia tobacco
- Turkish tobacco
- American light tobacco
- Cuban cigar
However, the most preferred flavor is menthol for which you can have several options in e-liquid like
- Fresh mint
- Green tea
PEG is generally a biologically inactive substance, so it is usually safe. However, it may have the following few side effects
- It has been found to have toxic effects on rats
- Likely to carry DEG contamination during its production process
- Some people are allergic to it
- It may potentially carry some harmful impurities such as ethylene oxide which is irritating to the skin
PEG 400 is a liquid compound that is useful in many areas. In vaping, it remains the most popular e-liquid option for cannabis products. However, in e-cigarettes, it has fallen out of favor to be replaced by PG and VG. Today you will hardly get an e-cigarette that uses PEG 400.
Beyond its use in vaping, PEG 400 has various applications that are chemical, industrial, biological, and commercial. That said, keep in mind that the US is currently grappling with a vaping death crisis. In reports that only came out in September 2019, hundreds of vapers, most of them young people died from lung cancer induced by vaping. It’s not clear yet what is behind lung cancer. Authorities suspect it could be THC.