The safety of vaping, notably the vaping of THC products has come under scrutiny in the USA after seven people have died as a result of developing a serious respiratory illness that has either been confirmed or is suspected as being the direct result of THC/Cannabis vaping products.
Health officials around the US have reported links to vaping and investigations into 483 cases of lung disease across 33 states, where the patient recently started vaping prior to their illness occurring. This number has risen from 450 to 483 cases within just a week!
Speaking about one of the fatalities, Dr Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said that the patient “had some underlying medical illnesses, but nothing that would have foretold the fact that within a week after starting to used an e-cigarette style vape for the first time, she developed a full-blown acute respiratory distress syndrome and died.”
Acute respiratory distress syndrome occurs when a person’s lungs fill with liquid. Symptoms include; coughing, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue and gastrointestinal problems and has seen patients admitted to intensive care departments and put on ventilators. All of the patients have reported vaping nicotine, THC or a combination of the two in the days or weeks before they fell ill.
In the face of this sudden crisis, a US Congressional hearing has been scheduled on the matter and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) has advised people to stop using vaping products, whilst the dangers and risks are investigated. In response to the current situation and general health worries surrounding vaping, Michigan have become the first state to ban the sale of flavored vape oils.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is working hard to try and identify any one brand, ingredient or substance that could explain the symptoms; making the statement that “finding answers to the vaping-related illnesses was a top-priority”
Whilst no single device or ingredient has been linked to all cases, many of the patients have admitted vaping THC previous to becoming ill. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 84% of 53 patients with lung illnesses in Illinois and Wisconsin reported using THC vape products prior to developing symptoms.
Of these patients, 24 out of 41 of them had been using a brand called “Dank Vapes” which contains Vitamin E acetate. This is an agent used by some less scrupulous cannabis oil manufacturers to dilute THC vape oil for maximum profit. The CDC has since strengthened the possibility of a link; stating that “some laboratories have identified Vitamin E acetate in product samples used by patients with e-cigarette associated lung illness”
Cannabis vape products have seen one of the biggest spikes of growth within the US legal cannabis market. Unfortunately due to the lack of uniform regulation, product quality varies massively.
Whilst the effect of Vitamin E acetate on the lungs remains unclear the FDA has advised people to avoid unofficial vape products sold outside of reputable stores and if possible, to stop vaping of any kind altogether, until the cause of this alarming outbreak has been firmly established.
The CDC recently tweeted that it is aware that “people are concerned about pulmonary disease among those who use vape style e-cigarettes. We are keeping the families of those affected in our thoughts & are working with the US FDA & state partners to find out what is making people sick” (RH)