A series of hospitalizations involving teens injured by e-cigarettes has drawn new awareness to the potential dangers of these products, particularly for young people.
Nearly three-dozen cases of lung injuries have now been reported in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, along with additional cases in California. All the cases are related to problems caused by e-cigarettes and vaping.
Multiple Cases of Teens and Young Adults Hospitalized for Lung Injury
The Wisconsin Department of Health has confirmed 15 cases of individuals reporting to the hospital with severe lung injury since July 2019, with at least 15 more suspected. The patients ranged in age from teens to 50s, and the only factor they all had in common was a history of vaping. The teens, in particular, suffered from a rapid onset of symptoms and were hospitalized with severe lung damage.
According to a report from the health department, the adolescents had severe pulmonary disease with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. These symptoms became worse over a period of days or weeks before the teens went to the hospital.
Some of the victims required aggressive treatments. One of the boys was intubated with a blood oxygen level of only 10 percent. He had to be put into a medically induced coma.
Six similar cases were reported in Illinois. Again, the patients experienced severe breathing problems after vaping, with symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some also suffered from vomiting and diarrhea. The health department is investigating five more individuals with similar symptoms.
Another four cases were reported in Minnesota, where the health department has warned doctors to be on the alert for
“novel cases of severe lung disease potentially related to vaping and e-cigarette use among teens and young adults.”
Treatment involved some patients being admitted to the intensive care unit.
“These cases are extremely difficult to diagnose,” said Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota,
“as symptoms can mimic a common infection yet can lead to severe complications and extended hospitalization.”
She recommended immediate treatment, stating that conditions could “continue to decline without proper treatment.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now working with all of these health departments as well as those in other states to find out what is causing these illnesses, and to see whether specific ingredients or contaminants may be to blame.
Studies Highlight Dangers of E-Cigarette Vapor
E-cigarettes, though advertised as being safer than traditional cigarettes because they don’t contain tobacco, still contain potentially harmful ingredients that may be contaminated with toxic heavy metals and potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
In a 2018 study, researchers collected saliva and urine samples from teen vapers, and discovered benzene, ethylene oxide, acrylamide, and other hazardous chemicals. The researchers concluded that their findings could be used to challenge the idea that e-cigarettes are safe, “because many of the volatile organic compounds we identified are carcinogenic.”
Harvard Health notes that flavored e-cigarettes, which are typically preferred by young people, often contain a chemical compound called “diacetyl,” which is associated with the lung disease “bronchioliti obliterans,” also called “popcorn lung.”
A 2017 study investigating the associations between the use of e-cigarettes and chronic bronchitis symptoms and wheeze in adolescents found that risk of bronchitic symptoms increased by almost twofold among past users compared with never-users.
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