Mechanistic rationale for ketene formation during vaping

18 September 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Ketene is one of the most toxic vaping emissions identified to date. However, its high reactivity renders it relatively challenging to identify. In addition, theoretical studies show that realistic vaping temperature settings are too low to produce ketene. Each of these issues is addressed herein. First, an isotopically-labeled acetate precursor is used for the identification of ketene with enhanced rigor in vaped aerosols. Second, discrepancies between theoretical and experimental findings are explained by accounting for the effects of aerobic (experimental) versus anaerobic (simulated and theoretical) pyrolysis conditions. This finding is also relevant to explaining the relatively low temperature production of aerosol toxicants beyond ketene. Moreover, the study herein shows that ketene formation during vaping is not limited to molecules possessing a phenyl acetate substructure. This means that ketene emission during vaping, including from popular flavorants such as ethyl acetate, may be more prevalent than is currently known.


vaping and dabbing
isotopic labeling


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