SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- A national non-profit watchdog group is sounding the alarm about e-cigarettes after the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health on Wednesday released the largest study of its kind on "vaping" products.
The study found most of the 97 e-cigarette products tested produce high levels of cancer-causing toxins such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
"This is a much more thorough study and more extensive study than any of the work I've seen to date," said Stanton Glantz of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education. "They went out into stores and actually bought products that people use and so you've got a very good measure of the level of toxins that people are being exposed to using these products."
The study says seven of the products tested had levels of either acetaldehyde or formaldehyde at more than 100 times what's considered safe.
"You pickle dead things with formaldehyde," Glantz said.
He explained the hotter the e-cigarette burns, the more formaldehyde byproduct it puts out. He and the study take issue with marketing claims that e-cigarettes are safe.
"They claim it's just harmless water vapor, that there's no toxic chemicals," Glantz said. "And that's just a lie."
"I've been vaping for almost three years. I feel great," claimed Sean Trataris who manages the Vapor Smoke Shop in San Francisco. "The U.K. just released a study saying it's 95 percent healthier than cigarettes."
There's been a boom in so-called "vape" shops.
"There's stores popping up left and right," Trataris said. "It's getting really popular really quick."
Stores are opening so quickly that regulations haven't kept pace.
"There's no regulation of this stuff," Trataris explained. "So it's all up to the consumer right now to figure out what's good and what's bad."
"A puff on an e-cigarette isn't as bad as a cigarette, but it's still bad," Glantz said.
The Center for Environmental Health is planning legal action against companies whose products it says tested with unsafe levels of chemicals, but no warning labels for consumers.