The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week named a culprit in the recent outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses: vitamin E acetate. CDC researchers found the compound at the primary site of injury in the lungs of 29 patients, two of whom died.
Vitamin E acetate is a sticky, honey-like substance used to thicken vape fluid, especially in illicit THC vaping products. Although safe in pill form or on the skin, the gluey substance clings to lung tissue.
Injured lungs look like they experienced a toxic chemical burn, similar to injuries seen in people exposed to a chemical spill at an industrial plant or the chemical weapon mustard gas, according to findings published earlier this month by doctors from the Mayo Clinic.
The CDC did not rule out the possibility of other chemicals or toxins contributing to the disease but said vitamin E acetate is the first common suspect found in the damaged lungs of patients from across the country. Nationwide, the outbreak has killed 40 people and injured 2,051 others since March.
Doctors in Michigan announced this week that they performed a double lung transplant last month on a 17-year-old vaper. Surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said they found an “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” on the teen’s lungs. He entered the hospital in early September and immediately went on the transplant list because of his condition. The doctors did not specify what or for how long the teen vaped. —K.C.