News Release

Chemical Insights Research Institute receives prestigious award from the National Institutes of Health

Launches research initiative on susceptibility to periodontal disease due to electronic nicotine delivery systems usage

Grant and Award Announcement

Chemical Insights Research Institute

(ATLANTA, GA) May 5, 2022 – In 2020, 3.7% of U.S. adults currently used electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)1 with 18.5% of users reporting gingival pain and or oral bleeding2 making this a concerning human health threat. Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI) of Underwriters Laboratories, in partnership with Purdue University and Georgia State University, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to establish the risk factors and biomarkers of gingival inflammation, the precursor to periodontal disease, associated with ENDS usage.

ENDS are battery-powered devices used to smoke or “vape” a solution called an e-liquid. Recent evidence indicates e-liquids and ENDS aerosol ingredients are oral health hazards that may increase the risk of periodontal disease3 especially in vulnerable populations such as African Americans. These hazardous chemical mixtures may cause disease risks, but there is a lack of data linking ENDS preference, usage behavior, and oral health outcomes.

Drs. Christa Wright, director of toxicology at Chemical Insights and Jonathan Shannahan, assistant professor at Purdue University, are serving as Principal Investigators for this landmark study to understand oral disease onset to allow for early screening and development of treatment options. The study includes recruiting never-established smokers and current and exclusive ENDS users.  

The researchers aim to link consumer vaping behavior data obtained through questionnaires and puffing topography studies to adverse clinical and molecular outcomes in study participants. Specifically, collected biosamples will be evaluated for biomarkers of exposure and injury including alterations within the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) pathway, which are thought to be involved in periodontal disease development.

“CIRI is pleased to expand its research on the human health hazards of ENDs products with the exploratory application of human biomarkers for studying chemical exposure and health outcomes,” says Dr. Marilyn Black, vice president and senior technical advisor at Chemical Insights. “Findings from our research will be beneficial to dental professionals in the identification of individuals at risk for ENDS-related oral health effects and can lead to important prevention strategies.”

Sharing knowledge that protects human health is core to Chemical Insights mission. That is why we are eager to share this research and provide actionable data to help increase positive health outcomes.

Read the full technical brief here.


  1. Cornelius, Monica, Caitlin G. Loretan, Teresa W. Wang, Ahmed Jamal, David M. Homa. “Tobacco Product Use Among Adults — United States, 2020.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 71 (2022): 397–405.
  2. Cho, Jun Ho. “The Association Between Electronic-Cigarette Use and Self-Reported Oral Symptoms Including Cracked or Broken teeth and Tongue and/or Inside-Cheek Pain Among Adolescents: A Cross-sectional Study.” PLoS One 12, no. 7 (2017): e0180506,
  3. Atuegwu, Nkiruka, Mario F. Perez, Cheryl Oncken, Sejal Thacker, Erin L. Mead, Eric M. Mortensen. “Association between Regular Electronic Nicotine Product Use and Self-Reported Periodontal Disease Status: Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Survey.” IJERPH 16, no. 7 (2019): 1263.



About Chemical Insights Research Institute 

Chemical Insights Research Institute (CIRI) of Underwriters Laboratories Inc., a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to scientific research, publication, education, and communication on environmental exposures resulting from technologies and practices, their impact on human health and processes for reducing risks. CIRI provides actionable data to help manufacturers, educators, healthcare providers, and consumers make informed environmental health decisions.  

Our work lets people around the world know what chemicals are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the products we interact with every day. Our leadership role is to provide science or knowledge to implement improved practices, alternative product design, and changes that enable safer products and healthier environments. 

To learn more, please visit  

About the Underwriters Laboratories Research Institutes

The research institutes of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. are nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing the Underwriters Laboratories’ public safety mission through scientific discovery. With best-in-class experts, we are the world’s premier institutes conducting scientific research and exploring the edges of technology to be the first to uncover and act on emerging risks to human safety.

For more information, visit

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