from the world's big
‘An evil I’ve never seen before’: Doctors scramble to understand vaping-related lung disease
Thousands of people are experiencing severe pulmonary issues from vaping, and some are dying.
- Scientists now believe that the primary culprit in this health crisis is vitamin E acetate, though research continues for other toxic factors.
- Vitamin E is a gooey thickener often used in black-market cannabis-based vaping products.
- Vapers who feel like they may have pneumonia should consult a physician immediately.
Surgeons are not squeamish people, so when one of them says, "This is an evil that I haven't faced before" it gets your attention. The doctor is Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital. The evil is the stunning wreck that vaping made of a 17-year-old double-lung transplant patient's lungs.
"What I saw in his lungs was nothing that I've ever seen before, and I've been doing lung transplants for 20 years," says Nemeh. That vaping, particularly of cannabis products using THC oils, has become a major public health crisis is indisputable: Since March, vaping-related illness has landed over 2,000 individuals in hospitals nationwide, and at least 39 of those people have died.
The patient in Detroit
mage source: James R. Martin/Shutterstock
Not much information regarding the individual described by Nemeh has been released, since he's a minor. What we do know is that his family has described him as an otherwise-healthy young athlete.
The teen was admitted to the first of three hospitals, St. John Hospital, September 5 with what seemed to be pneumonia. His breathing, however, became increasingly difficult until he was put on a ventilator September 12. He was soon transferred to Children's Hospital of Michigan to be connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation device (ECMO) in order to maintain heart and lung functioning. Still failing, he was transferred to Henry Ford for a six-hour, double-lung transplant on October 15, without which, doctors say, he would certainly have died.
"There was an enormous amount of inflammation and scarring in addition to multiple spots of dead tissue. And the lung itself was so firm and scarred, literally we had to deliver it out of the chest," recalls Nemeh.
THC and vitamin E acetate
Vitamin E acetete
Image source: ibreakstock/Shutterstock
When the medical community first became aware of the pulmonary problems, it was unclear what aspect of vaping was causing them. Likewise, it was unclear whether it was tobacco or THC vaping that was causing the problems, or both.
Scientists from the CDC tested for the presence of potential culprits in victims' lung fluid, looking for plant oils, petroleum distillates including mineral oils, or any other suspicious contaminants common to the individuals' cases.
What they found — though there could still be additional substances involved — was vitamin E acetate, or tocopheryl acetate. Collecting 29 lung-fluid samples from 29 people who had been sickened or who had died of lung issues, all 29 contained vitamin E acetate. The CDC's Dr. Jim Pirkle says that's "pretty much unheard of," and constitutes a "very strong signal" that vitamin E acetate is at the very least part of the reason for vapers' pulmonary damage.
CDC officials have concluded that most of the patients had vaped cannabis-based products. This is supported by state testing — New York's reports finding "very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all" of the samples from cannabis vapers they tested. While the federal FDA remains cautious about putting all the blame on vitamin E acetate, they, too, have found it to be prevalent in afflicted vapers' lungs. Medical authorities are continuing to test for other possible factors in the frequency of pulmonary illnesses among vapers.
Legitimately manufactured and sold cannabis-based vaping products don't necessarily contain vitamin E acetate. However, the sticky, honey-like substance is commonly used as a thickener in black-market THC products. Unlike THC itself, vitamin E acetate lingers in users' lungs. These unregulated, illicit cannabis-based vaping products, say experts, have indeed been linked to most of the cases medical professionals are seeing.
"This is a preventable tragedy," says Nemeh. While vaping is presumed by many to be safer than smoking, this current public health crisis makes clear that caution is advised, especially when buying vaping products off the street.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.