A recent outbreak of critical lung illness associated with vaping left over 2,500 people injured and took 60 lives. For months, this illness, which is known as EVALI, was described as a mystery illness and led the government to the brink of taking steps to restrict vaping. Although the government has backed down from restricting e-cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control has now officially designated a cause for these illnesses. According to the CDC, nearly all of the victims of this illness had traces of the substance vitamin E acetate in their lungs. While the book is far from closed on vaping illnesses and consumers are still advised to avoid the product, at least the cause of the lung illness outbreak is known.
The outbreak began in June 2019 and peaked in September. At this time, while there are still vaping related injuries, the rate has slowed considerably. Now that time has passed since the height of the outbreak, researchers have had a chance to study some of the patients and try to find some commonalities between their illness. CDC researchers have zeroed in on the cause of the illnesses by taking fluid samples from the patients’ lungs.
Vitamin C Acetate Can Be Used to Dilute THC
The vitamin E acetate was contained in THC products. The CDC believes that it was either used to dilute or even taint THC vaping products. CDC researchers believe that the practice of using vitamin E acetate to dilute THC began to uptick in 2019 which led to the sudden spike in illnesses. Not only have manufacturers used vitamin E acetate to dilute THC, but individual users may also engage in the practice because they want to stretch their THC supply and vitamin E acetate is a substance that is similar to THC.
However, before people get the impression that the disease came solely from exposure to THC, there was a small proportion of injured vapers who did not use THC products so consumers cannot get the idea that vaping is not dangerous. 82 percent of those studied with EVALI used products that had THC. However, 14 percent of the stricken vapers reported using only e-cigarettes containing nicotine and never used THC. Older patients with already weakened lungs are more susceptible to contracting EVALI without using any THC products. Further, the outbreak of illness was spread across 27 states so it was not caused by one tainted batch of cartridges but instead resulted from a pattern of usage.
How Vitamin C Acetate Harms the Lungs
According to the CDC, there are two possible ways that the vitamin E acetate in vaping can cause the severe lung injuries. The first theory is that the vitamin E acetate can cause a chemical disruption that impacts part of the lining of the lungs. This will negatively impact the lungs’ ability to expand and continue their normal day-to-day function. The second theory is that high temperature causes a chemical reaction that releases a substance called ketene. This is a respiratory poison that can cause pulmonary edema which is what harmed those with the vaping illness.
Since the cause of these illnesses is now known, some states have been taking action to put out guidance to e-cigarette manufacturers to ensure that their products do not contain vitamin E acetate. Still, while the amount of EVALI cases are on the decline, there are still new cases being reported. Some of the old supply may still be on the market or suppliers may still be engaging in the practices that tainted the vaping cartridges. In addition, states may not have fully rooted out illicit activity related to vaping. However, social media has been effective in getting the word out to some who mixed vitamin E acetate in with their THC and they may have stopped the practice as a result.
At this point, the CDC believes that it knows what caused thousands of vapers to become critically ill. There are still other research studies pending that will help supplement the knowledge of the illnesses. Researchers still want to learn more about EVALI so it can possibly be treated more effectively in the future.
Vaping Is Still Dangerous
As of now, the CDC is recommending that people avoid vaping due to the dangers. E-cigarettes are still relatively new and not enough is yet known about many of the health risks of the product. Vapers are still contracting illnesses that doctors are not entirely familiar with and do not know how to fully treat. If someone still vapes anyway, they should make sure not to mix any other substance in with the cartridge since that is where the risk to users is heightened.
In terms of legal ramifications for the makers of these tainted products, the FDA is currently in the process of taking enforcement actions against the companies that sold the unsafe products. This includes illicit distributors, producers or suppliers. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Administration has become involved as well, leading to some speculation that there could be criminal charges as well. The DEA is helping to track some of the suppliers since there were many small illegal manufacturers whose identities are not fully known.
Even though EVALI came as a result of vaping THC, this still does not mean that e-cigarettes are safe. Users of e-cigarettes have encountered numerous illnesses and conditions of their own such as seizures, and the product is certainly not a safer alternative to tobacco as its makers were representing.
The companies that sold these dangerous products can certainly be held civilly liable for their actions. If you or a loved one has contracted EVALI, you may be entitled to financial compensation, especially since there was nothing to counsel you of the risks before you used the product. The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates handles such cases and can provide a free no obligation evaluation of your case.