CDC reveals the familiar ingredient that may cause vaping lung disease


Federal health officials announced on Friday that they'd identified vitamin E acetate, an oil additive found in THC-based vape products, as a "very strong culprit" in the ongoing national outbreak of vaping-related lung illness that has sickened thousands and caused three deaths in MA.

US health officials have been sounding the alarm amid a nationwide outbreak of serous lung illnesses linked to vaping, and have raised concerns about the use of electronic smoking devices, particularly among youth.

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.

The vaping injury patients also had a higher rate of using "Dank Vapes", a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products, according to the study.

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At a news briefing Friday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said that the lung samples "provided evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury in the lungs".

Though it didn't rule out other chemicals or toxins as playing a part in triggering the epidemic, the CDC argued that vitamin E acetate is a "very strong culprit" after isolating the chemical in the lungs of 29 patients who were suffering from or had died from the mysterious lung disease.

Vitamin E acetate has been a strong candidate ever since NY state health officials first identified vitamin E acetate in several samples.

Regulators had signaled in recent weeks that the outbreak was likely tied to the use of black-market vaping products containing THC, the pyschoactive ingredient in marijuana, though they hadn't drawn a direct link to any one product, behavior or ingredient. The potential culprit? A substance called vitamin E acetate. But none of them were found in the lung fluid samples. Nicotine was detected in 16 of 26 patient samples. Of these samples, the officials found that 82-percent also tested positive for THC and 62-percent tested positive for nicotine.

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He described vitamin E Acetate as "oily - not kind of a common oil, but it's an oily substance".

If you're interested, you can read the CDC's weekly Morbidity and Mortality report here.

Vitamin E acetate is widely used in food and skin-care products, where it is safe, Schuchat said. "When vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung function", she said. It usually does not cause harm when swallowed, but its effects when inhaled have not been extensively studied.

Together, the findings reinforce public health officials' recommendation that people avoid using e-cigarettes that contain THC or any products that come from illicit sources.

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