Pulmonary fluid samples from 29 patients with pulmonary injuries in 10 conditions contained the same chemical, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today. The discovery is a huge step forward in the ongoing investigation into the serious and mysterious lung injuries that have hit e-cigarette users across the country.
The chemical, called Vitamin E acetate, is now considered a "troublesome chemical" by the CDC, which is investigating the epidemic. As of November 5, 2019, 39 people have died since the injury and 2,051 cases are being investigated.
The agency says that Vitamin E acetate is an oily substance found in tons of typical household items, including foods, supplements and even skin creams.
According to the CDC website, "Vitamin E acetate does not normally cause harm when taken as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. However, previous studies suggest that when vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with the normal functioning of the lungs. "
Oil can be great for skin care, but when heated, it can act almost like grease, chemistry professor Michelle Frankl told The Washington Post in September. As you can imagine, breathing in evaporated grease can seriously affect the lungs, although researchers are still trying to identify the exact mechanism that causes damage to the lungs.
Researchers believe that the substance has been added to e-cigarette products as a thickener and is particularly attractive to people producing illicit products because it resembles tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil. THC is a high-level substance in marijuana.
Vitamin E acetate was previously linked to injuries in early September when some government agencies identified the substance in samples of vaping products that were used by people who later became ill with the disease. But finding it in the products was not the same as in the patients themselves.
In this case, the researchers examined a fluid taken from the lungs of patients suffering from the injury and found vitamin E acetate in each sample. THC was detected in 82 percent of the lung fluid samples, and nicotine was detected in 62 percent of the samples, suggesting that the majority of patients were vaping THC products and that many were using both nicotine and THC products .
The CDC sought other additives in the samples, including mineral oils and vegetable oils, but did not find anything of concern.