CDC Says Potential Chemical Culprit in Vape-Related Deaths Identified

U.S. CDC reports 'breakthrough' in vaping lung injury probe as cases top 2,000

U.S. CDC reports 'breakthrough' in vaping lung injury probe as cases top 2,000

USA health officials announced a breakthrough Friday into the cause of a mysterious outbreak of vaping illnesses, reporting they have a "very strong culprit". More than 2,000 severe cases of vaping-related lung injuries have been reported nationally, per NBC.

Vitamin E oil, which is not harmful when ingested or applied topically, is sometimes added to black-market vape cartridges as either a thickening agent or to dilute the THC (to increase profits).

Scientists may finally know what's behind vaping lung illnesses that have sickened more than 2,000 in the USA: a combination THC and an oil derived from vitamin E, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday. "For the first time we have identified a potential toxin of concern, in biologic samples".

The center found vitamin E acetate in samples taken from 29 sick patients in 10 states.

Public health officials revealed Friday vitamin E acetate has been found in the lungs of people suffering damage linked to vaping as President Trump said he wants to raise the legal age for vaping to 21.

"These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury" in the lungs, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, said during a news conference today (Nov. 8). Though the CDC had advised, at the time of the leak, that it was too early to implicate the compound, it is now back warning that vitamin E acetate may be deadly when inhaled. For the study, health investigators collected bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples-that is fluid flushed into and then recollected from the lung through a tube inserted into the mouth or nose.

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A government lab found the same chemical compound in lung fluid from 29 patients.

Officials tested the samples for a variety of substances, including mineral oils, plant oils, diluent terpenes, cannabinoids, and nicotine, as well as a common component of lung secretions. Health investigators have said since almost the beginning of the outbreak in mid-August that some ingredients, including vitamin E acetate, could be responsible for some of the lung illness cases.

The one substance that came up in all 29 was vitamin E acetate. "THC is not something we would expect to be hanging around in the lung fluids", whereas vitamin E acetate is "enormously sticky... like honey", he added.

While the findings released Friday are seen as a significant development, the CDC warns that there could still be additional factors at play.

Until the investigation is complete, the CDC suggests people refrain from using all vaping products with THC, no matter where people buy them. It usually does not cause harm when swallowed, but its effects when inhaled have not been extensively studied.

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