Search for va­p­ing ill­ness cause has ‘strong cul­prit’

The Beaufort Gazette - - Front Page - BY MIKE STOBBE

U.S. health of­fi­cials an­nounced a break­through Fri­day into the cause of a mys­te­ri­ous out­break of va­p­ing ill­nesses, re­port­ing they have a “very strong cul­prit.”

The same chem­i­cal com­pound was found in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 pa­tients across the coun­try, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said. The com­pound — vi­ta­min E ac­etate — was pre­vi­ously found in liq­uid from elec­tronic cig­a­rettes and other va­p­ing de­vices used by many of those who got sick.

This is the first time they’ve found a com­mon sus­pect in the dam­aged lungs of pa­tients, of­fi­cials said.

“We are in a bet­ter place in terms of hav­ing one very strong cul­prit,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

But agency of­fi­cials cau­tioned they can­not rule out all other toxic sub­stances, and it may take an­i­mal stud­ies to clearly show vi­ta­min E ac­etate causes the lung dam­age that’s been seen.

More than 2,000 Amer­i­cans who vape have got­ten sick since March, many of them teen and young adults, and at least 40 peo­ple have died. The bulk of the cases oc­curred in Au­gust and Septem­ber but new cases are still be­ing re­ported.

Vi­ta­min E ac­etate has only re­cently been used as a thick­ener in va­p­ing fluid, par­tic­u­larly in black mar­ket vape car­tridges. While vi­ta­min E is safe as a vi­ta­min pill or to use on the skin, in­hal­ing oily droplets of it can be harm­ful. It’s sticky and stays in the lungs — the CDC’s Dr. Jim Pirkle likened it to honey.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liq­uids that con­tain THC, the high-in­duc­ing part of mar­i­juana, with many say­ing they got them from friends or bought them on the black mar­ket.

E-cig­a­rettes and other va­p­ing de­vices heat a liq­uid into an in­hal­able va­por. For years, most prod­ucts con­tained nico­tine, but THC va­p­ing has been grow­ing more com­mon.

Symp­toms of the va­p­ing ill­ness in­clude trou­ble breath­ing, chest pain, fa­tigue and vom­it­ing. Imag­ing tests show lung in­juries, and doc­tors can’t find in­fec­tions or other causes.

About two months ago, New York drew at­ten­tion to vi­ta­min E ac­etate when the state’s pub­lic health lab dis­cov­ered it in

MORE THAN 2,000 AMER­I­CANS WHO VAPE HAVE GOT­TEN SICK SINCE MARCH, MANY OF THEM TEEN AND YOUNG ADULTS, AND AT LEAST 40 PEO­PLE HAVE DIED, WITH THE BULK OF THE CASES BE­ING RE­PORTED IN AU­GUST AND SEPTEM­BER.

sam­ples of va­p­ing prod­ucts from sick pa­tients. In some in­stances, it made up more than half of the liq­uid in the car­tridges.

The chem­i­cal has shown up in tests in other labs, too, in­clud­ing a U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion lab in Cincin­nati that found vi­ta­min E ac­etate in half of the more than 400 THC sam­ples.

For the lat­est test, the CDC used fluid ex­tracted from the lungs of 29 pa­tients in 10 states, in­clud­ing two who died. Lab work­ers looked for a range of sub­stances that had been found in var­i­ous va­p­ing de­vices, in­clud­ing nico­tine, THC and other mar­i­juana com­po­nents, plant oils, min­eral oil and cut­ting agents used on the black mar­ket.

It was an ex­haus­tive list of more than 1,000, said Pirkle, who over­sees agency’s chem­i­cal anal­y­sis labs.

The one sub­stance that came up in all 29 was vi­ta­min E ac­etate.

“To me what’s im­por­tant here is both what they found, and what they didn’t find” said Scott Becker, head of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­to­ries. “This was the only thing they found.”

Pirkle said an­i­mal test­ing is now a pri­or­ity and might pro­duce re­sults within a year.

“We re­ally need the an­i­mal study to nail down cause and ef­fect,” he said.

Dream­stime/TNS

U.S. health of­fi­cials are look­ing at vi­ta­min E ac­etate as a po­ten­tial cause of the lung in­juries ex­pe­ri­enced by some va­p­ing users.

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