Six weeks ago, an 18-year-old patient appeared at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Long Island, complaining of chest pain, nausea, fever and shortness of breath. Initially, doctors thought he had pneumonia because of his X-rays showing "laziness" in his lungs. Within 48 hours, says Melody Pirzada, chief of pediatric pulmonology at the hospital, the patient's condition worsened and he was sent to the intensive care unit. He was diagnosed with ARDS, a condition associated with acute lung damage. It was connected to a breathing tube and placed in a medically induced coma for one week.
Doctors are confused how a healthy 18-year-old can become so ill until the patient's mother shows up at the hospital with something she dug out of her son's basket. It was an evaporator cartridge labeled TKO Extracts, a California-licensed company that sells THC products; the cartridge was later confirmed to be a fake version of the company's product, Pirzada says. When questioned, the man's friend told the doctors that he had used the cartridge three days before being admitted to the hospital. After being treated with steroids, the patient eventually recovers and is released from the hospital after two weeks.
Just one day later, a second patient appeared with completely different symptoms, including different nodes in the lungs; The 1
Pierzada was confused. Although she has treated only two such cases personally, in her 25 years of practice, she has never seen young, seemingly healthy men get sick so quickly in such a short period of time. "It's getting very scary. Every day, new cases are being collected, "Pirzada says. "Because three months ago we didn't have this problem."
In fact, what happened to the two men in Long Island is happening all over the country. As the dangers of e-cigarettes generally become more apparent, the CDC announced last week that it was aware of 193 potential cases of severe lung disease in 22 states related to vaping (and one death in Illinois officially related to vaping), the potential long-term health risks of vaping are becoming clearer, from difficulty breathing to eye and respiratory irritation. And while it is unclear how many of these cases are due to THC-containing products, unlike traditional nicotine e-cigarettes, Dr. Iliana Arias, senior scientific adviser and acting deputy director for noncommunicable diseases at the CDC, noted on Friday conference call that "in many cases" patients reported using products containing THC, although the CDC refused to specify exactly how much.
In California alone, where recreational marijuana is legal, there were 28 potential cases of acute pulmonary disease among people who have recently used cannabis products, according to a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). On August 12, CDPH released a health cluster signal to at least seven healthy adults in Kings County, California, all of whom were admitted to hospitals between July and August 2019 and all of whom presented with symptoms of severe acute lung illness, including coughing and shortness of breath, and in some cases fever and vomiting. All seven of these cases – including an additional reported after media coverage of the original press release – were related to THC vapes that were purchased outside the black market, says Nancy Herking, Assistant Director of Public Health for Kings County Rolling Stone adding that they were purchased from temporary, unlicensed pop-up shops in the area.
Cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with the THC vaccine have also been reported in Wisconsin and Utah. "In the last few months, it has been amazing how many cases across the country have fallen into the spotlight," says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a lung and critical care physician at the University of Southern California who has treated many people with a history of e-use. cigarettes.
As the investigation continues, neither the CDC nor the CDPH will comment. what specific products or brands are involved, nor would he comment on the results of his tests. "The investigation is ongoing. We cannot provide this information at this time, ”said CDPH spokesman Rolling Stone.
But Pirzada believes that many of these cases are related to counterfeit THC products, not electronic cigarettes themselves. "Electronic cigarettes create their own problems. But this is a whole new problem, "she says.
This revelation is vindictive to those like the administrator behind DankbustersOfficial, an Instagram account that warns cannabis users against buying black-market THC cartridges. The administrator, who asked to remain anonymous , says Rolling Stone that while bootleg THC cartridges are widespread since the cartridges were introduced on the market a little over a decade ago, they have become much more common as the market has exploded in recent years, like the vendors of ads "They are told that these things are clean and safe, so I have to rewrite the whole story in their minds," says the administrator . Some of the products of brands like Mario Carts are wholly unregulated and sold by black marketers who buy empty packages, then refill pens and sell them for cheap.
According to photos provided by Gerking to Rolling Stone, one of the cartridges featured in the reports was referred to as West Coast Carts, a brand popular on Instagram. Another, Dank Vapes, is a black market brand of ambiguous origin, according to a recent investigation from the Inverse website. No business is registered with the California Department of Public Health's cannabis production branch. In addition, Dank Vapes is determined to contain a variety of pesticides, according to laboratory tests conducted by the Doja Cannabis Testing Application. Requests for comment sent to a Hotmail account on Instagram of the West Coast "official" brand were not returned, as well as a request sent to one of the many accounts that is believed to be "official" Dank Vapes on Instagram.
Other common culprits are false versions of dispensary brands, such as Bulletproof Vapes, with merchants buying fake stickers to test dispensary products as a way to look more legitimate. Anyway, some common pollutants, according to laboratory tests that DankbustersOfficial has conducted with a third-party cannabis testing company BelLabs, include pesticides such as myclobutanil, a fungicide that, when evaporated, becomes cyanogen, a toxic substance inhalation and was used as a chemical weapon by the French army during World War I. There are also concerns that "heavy metals, such as lead, from the cartridge and its heating coils may also contaminate the products," says Bonnie Goldstein, medical director of Canna-Centers Wellness & Education and medical consultant for the Weedmaps cannabis database. The official DankBusters administrator says he has even seen the house fly in a fake Smart Cart before.
Laboratory testing of a patient's Pirzada cartridge revealed that it was positive for not only THC but also Vitamin E. If inhaled, oils such as Vitamin E can cause lipoid pneumonitis, a rare condition that results from inhalation of fat particles in the lungs, Pirzada says. When she presented the results to the Department of Health, she informed her that there were two other cases of THC cartridges testing for a positive vitamin E oil content, although she said the cartridge was currently being checked for other substances.
Although the lack of regulated cannabis markets in most US states, where recreational marijuana is still illegal, creates the ideal conditions for black market cartridges to thrive, interestingly, the states that appear to be most flooded with the black market or THC fake cartridges, are ones like California, one of the 11 states (plus DC) where recreational marijuana is legal, says the DankBustersOfficial administrator, who added that the state is currently flooded with fake regulated branded pens like Rove and Kingpen. "In legal markets and states, people can say, 'Hey, why go into this dispensary when I can give you the' same product 'for a third of the price? "
on accounts like DankbustersOfficial and subreddits like r / cleancarts, users will share tips on how to distinguish bootleg cartridges from licensed dispensers, such as consistency analysis and oil texture ( it should be fairly thick and move slowly when the pen is turned upside down), and whether the cartridge has a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which often includes a batch number to refer to the brand's website. But this is by no means foolish, as there are well-known black marketers who label their products with fraudulent stickers and the truth is that there is no permanent and reliable method to ensure that the cartridge is genuine or safe, says the administrator behind DankbustersOfficial. "Unless you spend $ 800 on each cartridge to test it, there's no way to know 100%," he says.