‘Vaping illness’ definitively linked to Vitamin E in bootleg THC vapes

Grant Boone
November 8, 2019

Health investigators have pointed to Vitamin E acetate as a potential culprit in the illnesses since early on in the outbreak, and health officials in NY earlier reported their suspicion of the ingredient in September.

Federal health officials announced on Friday that they'd identified vitamin E acetate, an oil additive found in THC-based vape products, as a "very strong culprit" in the ongoing national outbreak of vaping-related lung illness that has sickened thousands and caused three deaths in MA.

In a telephone briefing on Friday, Dr. Anne Schuchet, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called Vitamin E acetate "a very strong culprit of concern" and referred to the discovery as "a breakthrough" in the investigation.

Officials said this is the first time they've found a common suspect in the damaged lungs of patients. The substance has also been identified in tests by US and state officials of product samples collected from patients with the vaping injury.

(When there wasn't enough liquid to run every analysis, labs prioritized tests for cannabinoids and vitamin E acetate.) Researchers also looked for other potentially harmful additives during the testing - such as plant oils - but didn't find notable levels of any in the patient samples.

The United States plans to raise the age limit for vaping to 21, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday, adding that his administration would issue its final report on such products next week.

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She cautioned that more work is needed to definitively declare it a cause, and said studies may identify other potential causes of the injuries as well.

Until the investigation is complete, the CDC suggests people refrain from using all vaping products with THC, no matter where people buy them.

As of November 5, the CDC has tallied 2,051 confirmed and probable EVALI cases in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands. So far, investigators have determined that most cases appear to be associated with the use of vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The one substance that came up in all 29 patients was vitamin E acetate. Between August and October of 2019, doctors in 10 states collected samples from 29 EVALI patients, two of whom had died.

More than 2,000 people have been made ill from vaping in the last seven months, and questions have consistently arisen about whether a particular ingredient might be to blame - or whether the process of inhaling any type of vapor through an e-cigarette might be unsafe in itself. It can interfere with lung function if inhaled.

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