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.
The patient in Detroit<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4NTYwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjY0MzY1NX0.nMJ3e_PGjaGAZhLZZ6mkrdQzOpIGo5Pw6fgqAlWFNHs/img.jpg?width=980" id="76c62" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b3f851c1c51829cdf57cc83c4c221610" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
mage source: James R. Martin/Shutterstock<p>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.</p><p>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 <a href="https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/what-is-ecmo.pdf" target="_blank">extracorporeal membrane oxygenation device</a> (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.</p><p>"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.</p>
THC and vitamin E acetate<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA5MjAyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MjY2MDQwMX0.9UdDk9npfALZ7TID0jTz_NyZYcw1ATYSyOAb8tEm_CM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=171%2C347%2C333%2C1&height=700" id="330c1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="59ef23123cb005117607f305cb6a4d9f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Vitamin E acetete
Image source: ibreakstock/Shutterstock<p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6845e2.htm?s_cid=mm6845e2_w" target="_blank">What they found</a> — 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, <em>all</em> 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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>"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.</p>
Studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can help with epilepsy, heart disease, diabetes, and even schizophrenia.
Cannabinoids are certain chemical compounds found only in cannabis. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol is (THC) is the most commonly recognized. This is what gives users that telltale euphoric feeling. THC may also play a role, should medical marijuana continue to become mainstream, as a painkiller. In fact, one study found that those states that passed a medical marijuana law saw a drop in opioid painkiller-related deaths.