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Report: hookah steam stones contain cancer-causing elements

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Dottie Stover
/
University of Cincinnati

A University of Cincinnati researcher, studying the safety of hookah steam stones, has found residues of toxic metals in simulated smoking scenarios.

Hookah steam stones are billed by the companies who make them as "hookah without the tobacco risk," and commonly considered a safer alternative to cigarette smoking.

But Amberlie Clutterbuck, a UC doctoral student, found residues of toxic metals that included chromium, arsenic and cadmium.

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Credit Dottie Stover / University of Cincinnati
/
University of Cincinnati

She and other UC researchers write in May's Microchemical Journal, "These pebble-like rocks are soaked in the same type of fluid used in various hookah tobaccos, such as mo'assel which is popular in the USA, and heated in the heads of the hookah device in place of tobacco to create a smoke-like vapor cloud, plus small aerosol droplets."

The study suggests most of the toxic metals come from the charcoal used to heat the hookah apparatus, since the toxic metals from the steam stones don't consistently travel through the hookah to the mouthpiece.

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Credit Dottie Stover / University of Cincinnati
/
University of Cincinnati

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration mandated that companies manufacturing newer tobacco products, including hookah, must register and market only products following an FDA review.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.