The number of people affected by the mysterious vaping-related lung illness continues to rise. As of October 3, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aware of 1,080 lung injury cases associated with e-cigarettes or other vaping products. Over 18 deaths have also been confirmed in 15 states.
All of the patients had a history of using e-cigarettes, and according to recent evidence, most reported a history of using THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)-containing products, THC being the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
E-cigarette-Related Illnesses Started Spiking in 2019
E-cigarettes have been on the market for more than a decade, and there have been many studies indicating potential harm from the chemicals used in the nicotine solutions. It’s only been in the past year, however, that there has been a rapid increase in the number of serious lung injury cases reported.
It started in Illinois and Wisconsin in April 2019, where the health departments began to notice signs of the mysterious illness. Patients came in with symptoms like coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath, and many ended up in the hospital. Some were so seriously ill that they had to be put on respirators or treated in the intensive care unit.
In August 2019, authorities reported the first death related to this illness—an individual who had recently vaped and was hospitalized with severe respiratory illness. More would follow, first in Oregon and then in other states until nearly all were affected.
The CDC, the FDA, and state health departments started investigating the reports, and at first, it was unclear what may be causing the illnesses. There was no one brand or one particular product that showed up in the data. What authorities have found is that the majority of the individuals affected by the illnesses reported using e-cigarette products containing THC.
First Teenager Dies of Vaping-Related Illness
The New York Times recently reported on the youngest person to have died from a vaping-related illness. The 17-year-old Bronx boy was the first to die in New York, and the first teenager to have died because of vaping. He was hospitalized twice in September and died in early October. His death brought the total number of vaping-related deaths reported in at the time to 23. New Jersey health officials also reported their first death in early October—an adult woman.
According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, lung injuries from vaping are most likely caused by direct toxicity or tissue damage from noxious chemical fumes. Researchers reviewed lung biopsies from 17 patients, all of whom had vaped, and found no evidence of injury from the accumulation of lipids—fatty substances like mineral oils. Instead, they found evidence of injury similar to
“what one might see with exposure to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents,”
said Brandon Larsen, M.D., Ph.D., a surgical pathologist at Mayo Clinic Arizona.
New evidence from a joint investigation by the Illinois and Wisconsin health departments indicate that the majority of patients diagnosed with vaping-related lung illnesses used THC-containing products, most purchased from informal sources such as family, friends, and on the street.
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