Shisha is often thought to be less severe than cigarette smoking due to 'filtering' by bubbling through water. However, contrary to this popular belief, only a minimal amount of heavy metals are removed in the ‘filtration’ process when smoking shisha, say researchers.
On average, only three percent of heavy metals present in tobacco are removed by the water in shisha smoking. This would not be enough to protect users from exposure to these toxins, warn researchers from the German Jordanian University, and the Royal Scientific Society Amman-Jordan.
The two institutions, based in Jordan, analyzed four tobacco samples bought at a local market that represented the most popular brands and flavors in the country. Each sample was tested for total heavy metals present, including copper, iron, chromium, lead and uranium.
The amount of heavy metals found ‘filtered’ by the water container was relatively low for all four brands - an average of three percent of total heavy metals present. This is compared to 57 percent in the smoke and 40 percent in ash residue.
The researchers also found that the most abundant heavy metal present in smoke was uranium, which was present on average in 800 parts per billion across the four samples. The recommend maximum limit of Uranium in drinking water by the World Health Organization is only 30 parts per billion.
Lead researcher, Akeel Al-Kazwini, says: "Since the trend of smoking shisha has increased markedly among the young in the last decade, not only in the Middle East but worldwide, it is important to highlight its potential health hazards.”
He added, “People also need to be aware that the water used in shisha is mainly cooling the smoke, and not filtering it as is commonly believed. Moreover, a typical shisha smoking session, which can last up to an hour, can expose someone to 100-200 times the volume of smoke in a single cigarette.”