How Safe is Your E-liquid?

In America the dollar reigns supreme. Here in Blighty, we are fiercely proud and protective of the Pound. But in the vaping world, e-liquid is the currency of choice.

Just look at the fuss when new e-liquid gold hits the shelves, sparking a hundred different forum threads, a plethora of YouTube reviews all fighting to be first to have their voice heard by the chattering digital masses and the kind of unceremonious scuffling usually reserved for the annual department store January sales rush.


And then, just try ordering some of this new, much-hyped liquid gold. We’ve all experienced that feeling, after we’ve finally bought a ticket to ride on the e-liquid bandwagon, when we reach the checkout only to be told the stock has gone and we’re in a virtual queue for a new batch of stock to arrive. Hopes crushed. Bragging rights suspended.

We wonder how many of us at any point along this well-trodden road stop for a minute to consider what’s actually in the e-liquid we so dearly desire?


What safeguards are built into the production of this vaping lifeblood that make it fit for use? Did the manufacturer, in a rush to cash-in on its popularity, have systems in place to ensure no shortcuts are taken in the production process? Are there guarantees on quality and consistency? How will it affect your body? What’s in it?

Hands up those who haven’t asked that question, even on a single occasion?

While most seasoned vapers know that it’s probably wise to ignore much of the junk science offered as fact for easily-digestible consumption in the popular press, do we know enough about what we’re putting into our bodies every day via our mod of choice? Do we know how it is made and how can we be reassured that our interests, rather than the simple lure of filthy lucre, are a priority?

Just because there are manufacturers of e-liquid out there who are hugely transparent about their production process, the quality of the ingredients they use and the lengths they go to in order to make their product over-reach safety regulations, it doesn’t follow that everyone who has ever produced e-liquid is quite so rigorous.

There are rotten apples in every corporate barrel. And we don’t doubt for a minute that a disruptive lifestyle hero like the vaping movement will, at points along its rapid rise to High Street acceptance, fall victim to the cash-hungry vultures waiting to profit from the next big thing.

Here at Liberty Flights we’re hugely proud of our record for premium e-liquid production and also for leading the field with our high standards of production and research. Our chief scientific officer, Monica Vialpando, has been studying the effects of inhalation on the human body for years.


Monica, a PhD, is an internationally peer-reviewed published scientist whose previous work has led to her appointment at pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Genentech and Nektar Therapeutics. Monica is a member of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and the Belgian Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Her science background and research in oral dosage forms, formulation development and the effects of inhalation on the human body means she is the perfect fit for Liberty Flights’ pledge to continue to push the boundaries in both quality and research.

Today Monica looks at the subject of e-liquid – in this quick-fire Q&A session she gives her professional perspective on what makes a premium e-liquid like the Liberty Flights XO range so different to the liquids you can pick up for bargain-basement prices.

1. What goes into e-liquid, and how is it produced? 

There are typically 3-5 components in e-liquids: Propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavouring, in most cases, nicotine and in some cases, water. Liberty Flights have spent considerable effort putting together a specialist team of flavourists who develop our more complex and unique flavours from raw ingredients. Potential new e-liquid flavours will then undergo a process of in-house analysis and testing, plus internal and external reviewing. We may then slightly modify the component ratios until the taste experience is perfected.

2. Liberty Flights’ XO e-liquid is produced to pharmaceutical grade standards, could you give some insight into what this means and what the process is? 

There are four grades: pharmaceutical, food, agricultural, and industrial. Pharmaceutical grade is the purest available because it contains very little to no impurities. Our PG, VG, and nicotine are all pharmaceutical grade. While pharmaceutical and food grade are both suitable for human consumption, food grade is only designed for ingestion. This is especially important for inhalation, because the lungs are not equipped with the same defense mechanisms compared to when something is swallowed. As with most every day items, the downside is that the user will have to pay more for quality. That is why for example, some e-liquids retail for £1, compared to £4-5 per bottle from more reputable suppliers like Liberty Flights.

3. What are the risks of not ensuring full health and safety of e-liquids?

As well as the grade type, it is very important to fully characterize the e-liquids, especially flavours. Food grade flavouring is used because pharmaceutical grade is not available. Therefore, it is essential to know and understand the chemical make-up of these flavours. An example of this is diacetyl, a compound that produces a buttery taste. It is found in many foods (e.g. microwave popcorn) but is extremely harmful to the lungs when inhaled. As companies are evaluating new flavours, they need to be able to properly characterize and recognize such harmful substances. Companies need to have access to and proper methods with analytical tools, such as Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) to evaluate this. These are the first and most important steps in quality control. Unless routine batch testing is in place, companies won’t know whether they have control of their process, a good example is the routine testing of nicotine concentration and viscosity. Unfortunately, not all companies have these process control steps in place.

4. How has e-liquid changed over the past couple of years? 

There’s a lot more knowledge around e-liquid safety compared to when the industry started. Also, there are now a wider variety of flavours and unique tastes. For example, drink flavours such as Dandelion and Burdock or Champagne can be replicated with the use of GCMS.

XO Dandelion and Burdock

5. What is on the horizon for Liberty Flights’ e-liquid in terms of production techniques and ingredients? 

Regarding e-liquid safety, we have an agreement with a new independent lab which holds the highest accreditation; Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), where the shelf life of our e-liquids is tested with the same regulatory stringency as pharmaceutical items.

Also, we are continuously developing new and innovative flavours, evaluating current flavours and optimizing our XO range. Adapting to and listening to our customers’ needs is of course of paramount importance to us, to ensure that our XO e-liquid is of the best quality for a premium vaping experience.

12 thoughts on “How Safe is Your E-liquid?

  1. I have an unopened bottle of 2014 Liberty Flights Maple Syrup that I’d like to get tested for Diacetyl as part of an article I’m working on.
    What do you think would be the results?
    Best regards

  2. Have any of your eliquids ever contained Diacetyl?
    I have an unopened bottle of the withdrawn 2014 Liberty Flights Maple Syrup. What dya think would be the result if I got it tested?
    Kind regards

  3. Are you saying that all of your e-liquids don’t contain Diacetyl? It’s not clear in the above article. This is an important statement to make given the vast articles emerging regarding Popcorn lung.

    • Hi Adam,
      We do not use diacetyl as an ingredient in our flavourings. We have also had our liquids independently tested to demonstrate that they are free from diaceyl and acetyl propionyl. Please see our blog entitled ‘E-liquid testing results’ for more information. The test certificates for each flavour are available to view by clicking on the certificate icon next to each product on the product pages of our website.
      Hope this helps.
      King regards,
      Liberty Flights

  4. Where is this, substantiate, proof of food- vs pharmaceutical flavors, listed?
    Or documented?
    I am in the Aarhus university Phd longitudinal study. This would be nice to know. Prefeberaly who did the study, where, and maybe an introduction to the professor.

    • Hello Søren
      We would very much like to help you to the best of our abilities, so please do contact us with more background on what exactly you are looking for. Email: [email protected]
      Many thanks, Liberty Flights

  5. Hi there, it’s refreshing to read that Liberty Flights are aware of Diacetyl and other potential impurities, and of Gas Chromotograpy Mass Spectrometry, as this is the first time I have ever seen the company make any mention of testing and safety. I was a heavy customer of Liberty Flights in the early days of vaping, but migrated away to other suppliers who were testing every batch and supplying GCMS graphs which showed batch numbers matching the products unique batch. Unfortunately, the above explanation of GCMS is extremely vague, it’s mentioned that companies ‘should’ use it, but you don’t actually make the claim that you are using it, which raises a red flag. You go on to talk about having an ‘agreement’ with a third party lab without going into any details about the process and frequency levels of that agreement, merely mentioning shelf life testing. This is a very different process to GCMS testing every batch, which the intelligent vaping community consider critical in 2015, and can find in many places. It feels that the copy has been written in a way as to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions, whilst not actually making any claim, thus keeping within the law. I and many others in the community would return to Liberty Flights if this copy was rewritten in a way that actually explains your testing workflow in detail, as this article has little to no substance.
    Another issue that remains unaddressed in this article is colourings. Colourings are generally considered unsafe for inhalation, and Liberty Flights juices are every colour of the rainbow, whereas the companies myself and several friends now use do not use any colourings, or flavourings which contain colour, so it is completely possible to do so. What is the companies stance on colourings going forward, as it is a serious concern for many of us? It’s not important that my Red Energy juice is red when my health is at stake. We would love to return to Liberty Flights as the service and delivery was always first rate, and hope these concerns will be addressed once and for all, as informed vapers only care about their health, and not marketing gimmicks and propaganda. Regards Craig

    • Hello Craig,

      We understand your concerns regarding e-liquid safety. Our Chief Scientific Officer has extensive inhalation background experience and is aware of these inhalation concerns. As mentioned, our XO range is developed by our in-house team of flavourists who are aware of these harmful ingredients (i.e. diacetyl, colourings) and do not put them in the e-liquids. Any variation in colour of our XO e-liquids are from the raw ingredients, which can change colour over time as the e-liquid steeps. All potential incoming flavours from outside suppliers are GCMS screened for these harmful substances. If they contain these, we do not sell them. A 3rd party lab always performs these GCMS tests for us. As part of our ongoing quality improvements, we’ve changed this testing from a 3rd party UKAS accredited to a GMP accredited lab.
      The reference to the GMP shelf life tests was provided as an additional example at the level of which we are investigating our e-liquids. Following production, our batches are GCMS tested amongst other quality control tests. Please do contact our Head Office if you are interested in obtaining these results.
      This blog is amongst the first of many to share our on-going process improvements and e-liquid health and safety. Please check in with us regularly as we would also love for you to return to Liberty Flights.
      Many thanks

      • Ok the grade of Vg is good but theres no mention of the chemical used for flavouring.I have read an article about popcorn lung and some of the chems used are dangerous.

        • Hi Gary,
          All our flavouring ingredients are food grade and we do not use diacetyl and acetyl propionyl which have been linked to lung damage. For a more detailed explanation please see our blog titled ‘E-liquid testing results’ which explains the reason for excluding these ingredients and the methods we have used to test for them. Our flavours have been tested by an independent lab and the results can be viewed by clicking on the certificate icon next to the product on the product pages of our website.
          Hope that helps.
          Kind regards,
          Liberty Flights

  6. Just out of interest, do you have the same confidence in the flavourings you also sell e.g. Flavour art etc? It’s just that I make my own using these from Liberty flights and I just assumed they were also at the same standard as the finished eliquids on sale. Just thought I’d check!

    • Hi Phil, we work with reputable and well-established e-liquid suppliers, though our XO e-liquid range is totally within our manufacturing control. In the case of Flavour Art for example, you can check out information from their FAQs: ‘Do the concentrates contain…’
      If you do want more specific information, we recommend that you go direct, as they will have more in-depth knowledge on their own individual flavours. Thanks

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