The famous answer: "we don't know" has been made quite a bit more clear after a recent CDC backed publication reviewing the dangers and risks posed from being in a vape-heavy environment such as the interior of a vape shop. The study was triggered by a request from the shop owner.
CDC researchers spent two days in a local vape store. Each day they took air samples in different locations around the shop's setup; The main lobby/lounge area, Employee areas, and the testing station; also known as a vape bar. Simply stated in the study's findings, "Concentrations of vaping-related chemicals in our air samples were below occupational exposure limits."
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued the report — titled “Evaluation of Chemical Exposures at a Vape Shop” — in July, but the testing took place in January of 2016. The shop isn’t named in the report.
NIOSH is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its stated mission is, “To develop new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and to transfer that knowledge into practice.” NIOSH says it has a mandate to assure “every man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.”
“The results for the area air samples taken over the entire work day in the juice bar and
lounge areas using silica gel tubes are presented in Table 3,” the report says. “Diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, 2,3-hexanedione, and acetoin were not detected in the lounge area. For the full-shift area air samples taken behind the juice bar using silica gel tubes, we found detectable, but not quantifiable, concentrations of 2,3-pentanedione on day 1. We did not find detectable concentrations of any of the other flavoring chemicals in the other juice bar samples.”
They did find Formaldehyde in two of the eight samples at about half of the NIOSH recommended exposure level. The rest of the samples were lower or not detectable. They note that “Low concentrations of formaldehyde exist in many indoor environments because of off gassing from furnishings, clothing, and other materials.”
Nicotine in the air was detected, but was far too low to be quantified.
This report would have come in handy a few years ago when cities in MN and around the country began debating the question of indoor sampling and public vaping laws. It's curious that the CDC hasn't made these findings more public, as it effects the lives of millions of ex-smokers and could tip the scales for smokers considering switching to a less harmful alternative.