The CDC has narrowed in on vitamin E acetate as a potential chemical of concern in an epidemic of vaping-related lung illnesses that have injured 2,051 people from nearly all states and have been linked to 39 deaths in 24 states.
The numbers reflect the most recent update from the CDC, posted Nov. 5. The illnesses, known as e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI), have been somewhat of a mystery since people across the nation became sick from e-cigarette use. After launching an investigation into the issue over summer, the CDC, working with several affected states, determined vitamin E acetate was found in all of the sample fluids collected from the lungs of 29 patients with EVALI.
Vitamin E acetate was suspected early on in the investigation as a potential harm. Vitamin E is often used in other types of products and is not known to be harmful when applied to the skin of ingested, though inhaling it may be the culprit of the lung illnesses. However, the CDC notes that no one compound or ingredient is the cause of the illnesses and there could be more than one cause.
The number of EVALI cases and deaths, particularly among young people and teenagers, have prompted a big backlash of the e-cigarette industry. The Trump administration announced in September it would ban all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products, which attract younger and underage consumers. In the CDC’s October update, the median age of more than 1,300 patients with EVALI was 24 years old, and ages ranged from 13 to 75 years.
The CDC has urged people to avoid certain vaping products as it continues to investigate.
“CDC continues to recommend that people should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers,” reads the agency’s latest update.
In addition, doctor groups have stepped in to help diagnose and treat the illnesses. Physicians and pulmonary experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the New York State Department of Health published a diagnostic/treatment algorithm in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine expanding upon early guidance from the CDC to manage the condition.
This illness has been vexing for physicians across the country and we continue to see people suffering from the dangerous effects of vaping," Daniel Croft, MD, MPH, pulmonologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Strong Memorial Hospital, said in a statement. "We expect the guide will help minimize missed diagnoses as cold and flu season ramps up."