Health officials believe the dead and injured patients used psychoactive THC-containing liquids bought off the black market that were diluted with a common chemical additive that, under vaping conditions, becomes unsafe.
Our long national vaping injury nightmare might be turning a corner.
Doctors still don't know how to treat the illness that has been dubbed "EVAL" (short for 'e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury) beyond supportive therapy like putting patients on respirators and, perhaps, steroid treatment.
This is the first time they've found a common suspect in the damaged lungs of patients, officials said.
Investigators announced Friday that they have detected a chemical compound called vitamin E acetate in all the samples of lung fluid collected from 29 patients who were hospitalized after vaping, suggesting a possible culprit for the spate of lung injuries that has swept across the U.S.
Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director, said tests have been conducted for a wide variety of substances, including plant oils and petroleum distillates. Leafly first identified the problem chemical on August 30.
The chemical has shown up in tests in other labs, too, including a U.S. Food and Drug Administration lab in Cincinnati that found vitamin E acetate in half of the more than 400 THC samples. "There may be more than one cause of the outbreak", she said. Many potentially unsafe materials can lurk in street THC carts, including pesticides, heavy metals, and solvents like butane.
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Federal health officials have reportedly found vitamin E acetate in the lung fluid of more than two-dozen patients diagnosed with the mysterious vaping-related illness that's so far sickened over 2,000 people and killed 39. Nicotine metabolites were detected in 16 of 26 patient specimens.
Vitamin E acetate is not found in Juul products, for instance, though it's not yet clear what products besides those bought on the black market might have been using the additive, believing it to be harmless.
As the CDC's Dr. James Pirkle explained at the latest news conference, vitamin E doesn't belong in your lungs.
Vaping-related lung damage has appeared in every state except Alaska.
The findings are being published in Friday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
82% of the samples included THC; 62% included nicotine. People have been vaping for years, so why would users begin having extreme reactions to the products after all this time? Vitamin E acetate is an additive in some THC-containing products. It usually does not cause harm when swallowed, but its effects when inhaled have not been extensively studied.