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US officials still eye vitamin E acetate in lung illnesses but warn against all vapes

No safe vapes? Vitamin E acetate from weed e-cigs bought on the streets is still the ‘prime suspect’ in nearly 2,000 lung illnesses – but 13% of sick vapers say they only use legitimate products

  • A total of 1,979 Americans have been hospitalized for vaping-related lung illness
  • Since the outbreak began, 57 people have died, with the youngest succumbing to ‘EVALI’ at just age 15 
  • CDC and FDA officials found vitamin E acetate in 82% of THC products used by hospitalized patients, according to data released Tuesday 
  • Most people who are sick got their products from ‘informal sources’ – especially teenagers 
  • But some lung illness patients say they bought commercial nicotine and THC products only, suggesting these too may trigger illnesses 

Most of the vapers hospitalized in the outbreak of lung illnesses sweeping the US bought THC products from friends or off the street, and wound up with e-cigarette liquids that contained vitamin E acetate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

But 16 percent swear they only purchased commercially available products, officials said in a report released Tuesday. 

As of their latest data, 82 percent of the 1,979 people hospitalized for vaping-related lung illness said that they used THC products. Moe than a third of those only used THC products.

However, 13 percent reported vaping nicotine only, so products like Juul and Blu can’t be deemed safe yet. 

The CDC is warning that ‘the best way for persons to ensure that they are not at risk is to consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.’ 

Most sick vapers got their THC products from 'informal' sources only (medium blue) and teens were the most likely to do so. However, a small percentage of lung illness sufferers reported buying only legitimate, commercial vaping products, the CDC report reveals

Most sick vapers got their THC products from ‘informal’ sources only (medium blue) and teens were the most likely to do so. However, a small percentage of lung illness sufferers reported buying only legitimate, commercial vaping products, the CDC report reveals 

In the last several months, 57 people have died of the vaping-linked lung illness that US health officials have dubbed a new disease. 

It’s a high death toll, and the number of people hospitalized for what’s now called ‘EVALI’ is nearing 2,000. 

But not everyone who vapes falls ill or dies, leaving scientists scrambling to find some common thread in the products used by those who’ve fallen ill. 

CDC has been calling vitamin E acetate a ‘strong culprit’ in the outbreak for months. 

Vitamin E acetate is an oily derivative of the nutrient, likely used to dilute e-cigarette liquids containing THC which, unlike nicotine, cannot be dissolved in water. 

The Food and Drug Administration, working in collaboration with the CDC, has continued testing vaping products turned over to the agency by people have fallen ill. 

So far, they’ve managed to collect vaping products used by 73 patients. 

Among their possessions, 79 percent had one or more THC vaping product. 

And 78 percent of those tested positive for vitamin E acetate.  

Another recent study of 51 lung illness patients found vitamin E acetate in the lungs of 94 percent of the group. None of the 99 healthy controls in the study had evidence of vitamin E acetate in their lungs. 

Taken together, it’s compelling evidence that the substance may be to blame for the lung illnesses. 

And the discovery that every single one of the 20 bootleg vaping products seized in Minnesota in 2019 contained vitamin E acetate (compared to zero in the 10 seized there in 2018) further bolsters the theory that street products are to blame.  

But that comes with an important caveat. 

‘Although most EVALI cases have been associated with use of informally sourced THC-containing products, 16 percent of patients reporting use of THC-containing products reported acquiring them only from commercial sources,’ the CDC writes. 

Perhaps most worrisome, the CDC found that the group most likely to use illegitimate vapes bought from ‘informal’ sources, like friends, family and street dealers, were 13- to 17-year-olds. 

The report comes as New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill to ban flavored e-cigs in an effort to dissuade this very age group from picking up vaping.    

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