What Does a Burnt Coil to Lungs Illustration

What Does a Burnt Coil Do to Your Lungs? (2024)

by | Updated: Apr 28, 2024

The rapidly growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping devices raises a myriad of health concerns, one of which is the impact of burnt coils on lung health.

When a coil burns out, it can produce a range of potentially harmful substances, posing a risk to the respiratory system.

This article explores the specific compounds emitted by burnt coils and their implications for lung health.

What Does a Burnt Coil Do to Your Lungs?

Inhaling vapor from a burnt coil exposes your lungs to harmful chemicals and potentially toxic substances like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Over time, this could lead to respiratory issues, inflammation, and a higher risk of lung injury or disease. Always replace burnt coils promptly to minimize risks.

vape new coils vs. burnt coils vector illustration

What is a Coil in a Vaping Device?

In a vaping device, the coil serves as the heating element responsible for vaporizing the liquid solution, commonly known as e-liquid or vape juice. The coil is typically made of a metal wire wrapped around a wicking material, often cotton, that absorbs the e-liquid.

When the device is activated, the battery heats the coil, which in turn heats the saturated wick, transforming the e-liquid into an inhalable vapor.

In a properly functioning device, the coil evenly distributes heat, maintaining a balance that prevents it from reaching excessively high temperatures.

However, with regular use, the coil can degrade, resulting in uneven heating. When the coil burns out, it can produce a range of potentially harmful substances that can adversely affect lung health.

Therefore, maintaining and regularly replacing the coil is crucial for minimizing health risks associated with vaping.

Burnt Coils vs. Regular Coils

Both burnt and regular coils serve the same fundamental purpose in a vaping device: to heat the e-liquid and produce vapor.

However, the state of the coil significantly impacts not only the vaping experience but also the potential health risks involved.

Regular Coils

A regular coil heats the e-liquid evenly, ensuring that it vaporizes at an optimal temperature.

This provides a smoother, more flavorful vaping experience and minimizes the production of harmful or toxic compounds.

Regular coils are generally clean, free from accumulated gunk, and not oxidized, ensuring that the vapor produced is as pure as possible given the constituents of the e-liquid.

Burnt Coils

On the other hand, burnt coils are coils that have degraded due to prolonged use, poor maintenance, or flawed design.

They can no longer heat the e-liquid evenly and may produce an unpleasant, burnt taste.

More importantly, burnt coils are more likely to produce harmful or even toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein, which can pose serious risks to lung health.

Signs That Your Coil is Burnt or Damaged

Knowing when your coil is burnt or damaged is crucial for maintaining a safer and more enjoyable vaping experience.

Here are some signs that your coil may need replacement:

  • Unpleasant Taste: One of the most immediate and noticeable signs of a burnt coil is a distinctly unpleasant, burnt taste when you inhale. This is different from the flavor of your e-liquid and is a strong indicator that the coil is degraded.
  • Reduced Vapor Production: A damaged or burnt coil often results in significantly reduced vapor production. If you notice that your device isn’t generating as much vapor as it usually does, the coil may be the culprit.
  • Gurgling Sounds: A well-functioning coil should not make any unusual noises. If you hear gurgling sounds while using your device, this could be a sign that the coil is flooded with e-liquid and is possibly damaged or burnt.
  • Leaking E-Liquid: A compromised coil can cause the device to leak e-liquid, as it may not be vaporizing the liquid effectively. If you notice persistent leaks despite ensuring that all parts are correctly assembled, it may be time to inspect the coil.
  • Weak or “Off” Flavors: If the flavor of your vapor seems weak or “off,” it could be due to a coil that is on its way to being burnt. The coil may no longer be effectively vaporizing the e-liquid, leading to a muted or altered taste.
  • Visual Inspection: A healthy coil should be relatively clean and free of residue. A burnt coil may appear dark, crusted, or visibly damaged upon inspection.
  • Frequent Dry Hits: If you experience dry hits more frequently than usual, your coil might be unable to wick the e-liquid properly, possibly because it’s burnt or damaged.
  • Older Coil: Coils have a limited lifespan, usually between one to three weeks, depending on usage. If you’ve been using the same coil for an extended period, it’s a good idea to replace it, even if you haven’t noticed any of the above signs.

Note: By paying attention to these indicators, you can proactively replace your coil before it becomes a potential health risk. Regular coil maintenance and replacement are essential for a safer vaping experience.

Health Concerns of Burnt Coils in Vaping Devices

The use of burnt coils in vaping devices poses a range of health concerns, many of which are related to the respiratory system.

When a coil becomes burnt or damaged, it can produce a variety of potentially harmful or toxic substances that are inhaled into the lungs.

Here are some of the key health concerns associated with burnt coils:

  • Exposure to Harmful Chemicals: Burnt coils can produce harmful substances such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. These chemicals are known irritants and can cause inflammation in the respiratory tract.
  • Respiratory Issues: Long-term exposure to the compounds emitted from burnt coils can lead to respiratory problems. Symptoms may range from a persistent cough and throat irritation to more severe conditions like bronchitis or asthma exacerbation.
  • Increased Inflammation: The inhalation of harmful substances can trigger an inflammatory response in the lungs. Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even lung cancer.
  • Reduced Immune Response: Some studies suggest that exposure to substances produced by burnt coils can compromise the immune system, making it easier for infections to take hold in the respiratory system.
  • Systemic Toxicity: Certain compounds produced by burnt coils, like formaldehyde, are not only harmful when inhaled but can also have systemic toxic effects. They can enter the bloodstream and affect other organs, raising concerns about long-term health implications.
  • Risk of Lung Injury: The use of burnt coils increases the risk of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI), a condition characterized by symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever.
  • Flavored E-Liquids: Burnt coils can further degrade flavored e-liquids, creating new compounds that may pose additional health risks.

In light of these concerns, it’s crucial to regularly inspect and replace the coils in your vaping device to minimize potential health hazards.

Given the emerging evidence on the health risks associated with vaping, especially with the use of burnt coils, users should exercise caution and consider these risks seriously.

Chemicals Released in Burnt Coils

When a coil in a vaping device becomes burnt or degraded, it can produce a range of harmful and potentially toxic chemicals.

Here are some of the key chemicals that may be released:

  • Formaldehyde: A known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is a major concern in burnt coils. It can cause irritation of the eyes and nose and long-term exposure may increase the risk of respiratory diseases and cancer.
  • Acetaldehyde: This chemical is another aldehyde that can be produced when a coil is burnt. Acetaldehyde is a respiratory irritant and long-term exposure may be associated with an increased risk of cancer.
  • Acrolein: A highly irritating compound, acrolein can cause throat and eye irritation and is highly toxic when inhaled. It is also implicated in the development of chronic respiratory conditions.
  • Nitrosamines: Some burnt coils may produce nitrosamines, a group of chemicals that are also found in tobacco smoke. These compounds are known to be carcinogenic.
  • Heavy Metals: Burnt coils can release heavy metals like lead, nickel, and chromium into the vapor. These metals can accumulate in the body over time and have been linked to various health issues, including neurological and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Phenolic Compounds: Some burnt coils may emit phenolic compounds, which can be irritating to the respiratory system and have been associated with various health issues when exposure is sustained.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): These are a broad category of chemicals that can be emitted from burnt coils. VOCs can include anything from benzene to toluene, both of which have health implications ranging from respiratory irritation to potential carcinogenic effects.
  • Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin Degradation Products: When overheated due to a burnt coil, the primary carriers in e-liquids—propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—can degrade into harmful or potentially harmful substances.

Note: While some of these chemicals may also be present in lower concentrations during normal vaping, a burnt coil can dramatically increase the levels of these harmful compounds. Therefore, it is crucial to replace burnt or degraded coils promptly to minimize exposure to these chemicals.

How to Prevent and Detect Burnt Coils

Preventing and detecting burnt coils is essential for a safer and more enjoyable vaping experience.

Here are some strategies and tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of a burnt coil:


  • Prime the Coil: Before using a new coil, always prime it by adding a few drops of e-liquid directly onto the wick. This ensures that the wick is fully saturated, reducing the likelihood of a dry burn.
  • Use the Right Wattage: Using a wattage setting that’s too high for your coil can cause it to burn out quickly. Always check the manufacturer’s recommended wattage range for your coil.
  • Regular Cleaning: Periodically clean your coil and tank to remove any gunk or e-liquid buildup. However, keep in mind that coils do have a lifespan and will need to be replaced eventually.
  • Keep Your Tank Full: Running your tank low on e-liquid increases the chance of a dry hit, which can burn the wick. Make sure to refill your tank before it gets too low.
  • Check E-Liquid Composition: Some e-liquids are thicker or sweeter than others, which can lead to quicker coil degradation. Using a thinner or less sweet e-liquid can prolong coil life.
  • Rotate Flavors: Using the same flavored e-liquid for an extended period can contribute to faster gunk buildup. Rotating between different flavors can help keep the coil cleaner for a longer time.


  • Taste: A burnt or unpleasant taste is a clear indication that your coil may be burnt.
  • Reduced Vapor Production: If your device is not producing as much vapor as usual, inspect the coil.
  • Visual Inspection: A visibly dark, crusted, or damaged coil is a sure sign that it needs replacement.
  • Leaking or Gurgling: Any unusual leaks or sounds can also indicate that the coil is burnt or damaged.
  • Weak or “Off” Flavors: If the flavor of the vapor seems muted or different than usual, it may be time to check the coil.
  • Dry Hits: Experiencing frequent dry hits is a sign that the coil may be unable to wick e-liquid properly, indicating it’s burnt or damaged.

Note: By implementing these preventive measures and staying vigilant for signs of a burnt coil, you can minimize the risks associated with using a degraded coil in your vaping device. Always replace burnt or damaged coils promptly to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

FAQs About Burnt Coils and Lung Health

What Does a Burnt Vape Coil Do?

A burnt vape coil negatively impacts both the vaping experience and your health. When a coil is burnt, it can produce an unpleasant, burnt taste and significantly reduce vapor production.

More importantly, a burnt coil can emit harmful and potentially toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein, which can cause respiratory irritation and long-term health issues when inhaled.

Does a Burnt Coil Ruin the Juice?

Yes, a burnt coil can ruin the e-liquid or “juice.” When the coil is burnt, it can produce a burnt taste that permeates the e-liquid, making it unpleasant to vape.

Additionally, the uneven heating may lead to the degradation of some components of the e-liquid, creating potentially harmful substances that were not initially present.

Can I Refill a Disposable Vape?

Technically, some disposable vapes can be refilled, but they are not designed for this purpose, and doing so may compromise both performance and safety.

Refilling a disposable vape may lead to leaks, uneven heating, and potential exposure to harmful substances. It’s recommended to use the device as intended and dispose of it properly once it’s empty.

How Do I Know if My Vape Coil is Burnt?

You can identify a burnt vape coil through several signs. The most immediate is an unpleasant, burnt taste when you vape.

Reduced vapor production, unusual gurgling sounds, and persistent e-liquid leaks are other indicators.

Additionally, a visual inspection revealing a dark, crusted, or visibly damaged coil confirms that it’s time for a replacement.

Can a Burnt Vape Coil Make You Feel Sick?

Yes, using a burnt vape coil can make you feel sick. The harmful chemicals released from a burnt coil, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, can cause symptoms ranging from throat irritation and coughing to nausea and headaches.

Long-term exposure can even lead to more serious health issues.

Can Lung Damage From Vaping Be Cured?

The reversibility of lung damage from vaping largely depends on the severity of the damage and the specific conditions involved.

Some minor respiratory symptoms may resolve on their own after quitting vaping, while more severe conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are generally irreversible but manageable.

Immediate cessation of vaping and medical intervention are crucial for mitigating long-term damage.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the health impacts of burnt coils in vaping devices is essential for making informed decisions about vaping safety.

The evidence suggests that inhaling vapor from burnt coils exposes the lungs to harmful and even toxic chemicals, raising the risk of respiratory complications and diseases.

Consequently, users should exercise caution and replace coils promptly to minimize potential health hazards.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.


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