- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2019

Vitamin E oil, an ingredient added to THC e-cigarettes, is a “strong culprit” behind the national outbreak of vaping-related deaths and sicknesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The supplement was found in lung fluid samples of 29 sick patients in 10 states, a discovery described as a “breakthrough” in the months-long investigation.

“These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director for the CDC, said during a media briefing Friday.

She described the data implicating vitamin E acetate as robust since the patients came from different locations.

Forty-nine states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have reported 2,051 confirmed and probable vaping-related lung injury cases as of Tuesday. Thirty-nine deaths have been confirmed in 24 states and the District.

Vitamin E acetate, which can be found in food and cosmetic products such as skin creams, is added to THC e-cigarettes to dilute the liquid.

While the CDC says it does not cause harm when swallowed or rubbed into the skin, previous studies suggest inhaling it might disrupt lung function.

“It’s important to note that these findings do not rule out other possible compounds or ingredients that may be causing these lung injuries,” Dr. Schuchat said. “There may be more than one cause of the outbreak.”

THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, was also found in 23 of 28 patient samples. Nicotine was found in 16 of 26 samples tested.

Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for the Illinois Department of Public Health, told reporters that a survey of 4,631 residents in her state revealed that those with lung injuries were nine times more likely to have vaped illicit products from dealers or off the street, and were eight times more likely to have used “Dank” vapes, a brand of black-market THC vaporizer cartridges.

She said the study’s findings reinforce that e-cigarettes containing THC should not be used.

Dr. Schuchat noted a small number of patients reported smoking only nicotine-based products. She recommended that the public refrain from using all e-cigarette products.

According to the CDC, 86% of 867 patients reported use of THC products, 64% reported use of nicotine products, 52% reported use of both THC and nicotine products, 34% reported exclusive use of THC products and 11% reported exclusive use of nicotine products.

The New York State Department of Health announced in September that lab test results showed “very high levels” of vitamin E acetate in almost all cannabis-containing vaping product samples. The department said it was not found in nicotine products that were tested.

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