When US health officials look at what can cause hundreds of serious respiratory problems in people using electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activates its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for assistance investigations.
"The CDC has made it a priority to find out what causes this eruption of electronic cigarette injury or destruction," said CDC Director Robert Redfield. "The activation of the CDC Emergency Operations Center allows us to improve operations and provide additional support to CDC staff working to protect our nation from this serious health threat."
Reuters reports that the Emergency Operations Center offers a central command post where teams of trained experts, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff, monitor public health emergencies, share information and coordinate responses.
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Researchers have discovered cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, such as formaldehyde. However, it is not yet clear whether these chemicals are present in large enough quantities to cause harm.
Electronic cigarette vapor contains small particles that carry fragrances. Some laboratory and animal studies suggest that these fragrant particles can damage the lungs, respiratory tract and blood vessels, but more research is needed to better understand how human bodies respond to them.
Last week, the White House said federal regulators would develop guidelines to remove all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco from the market.
The ban is aimed at the growing popularity of flavored nicotine vape formulas among teenagers. Health officials said Wednesday that preliminary data shows that more than one in four high school students reported vaping this year, compared to one in five in 2018.
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Health officials are urging people to stop vaping and seek medical help if they have trouble breathing or have chest pain.