Health authorities say a form of vitamin E has been identified as a “very strong culprit” in a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries related to the use of e-cigarettes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a November 8 statement that fluid samples collected from the lungs of 29 patients in 10 states across the country with vaping-associated lung injury contained Vitamin E acetate, which is used as an additive in some vaping products.
The outbreak of e-cigarette-related lung problems has killed 40 people and sickened 2,051 since March, according to the Washington Post. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says it has 33 cases of vaping-related respiratory illness “confirmed or probable.” It is investigating reports of suspected vaping-related illnesses in all four regions of the state. Those diagnosed with vaping-related lung injury in South Carolina range in age from 13-69, though they are typically young male adults or teenagers.
Many patients have been hospitalized in intensive care units. Dr. Armin Meyer, a pulmonologist in Greenville, SC, said in a Facebook video that he has had six patients, some of whom “have been critically ill, requiring high amounts of oxygen and even … artificial life support.”
According to The Post, the illness is related to illicit or bootleg vaping products “that are essentially a stew of unknown chemicals concocted, packed and sold by unknown manufacturers and sellers.”
What is Vitamin E Acetate and Why is It in E-Cigarettes?
Vitamin E is found in many foods, including vegetable oils, cereals, meat, fruits and vegetables. Alpha-tocopheryl acetate (ATA) is a specific form of Vitamin E that is often found in skincare products and dietary supplements.
An acetate is a salt or ester compound formed from acetic acid. Sodium (salt) acetate has anti-caking properties.
E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid in an e-cigarette can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other substances and additives.
The CDC says Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of vaping products because it resembles THC oil. THC is the psychoactive compound of marijuana. Vitamin E acetate is also used as a thickening ingredient in e-liquids.
Vitamin E acetate usually does not cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin, according to the CDC. However, research suggests when vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung functioning.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said at a news briefing that fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients, including two who died, “provided evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury in the lungs.”
Vitamin E acetate is sticky, like honey, and clings to lung tissue. Researchers do not know exactly how it harms the lungs, but studies in animals are being considered to help explain that, Schuchat said.
Schuchat also left open the possibility that other chemicals or toxins from vaping fluids or devices could be causing the severe respiratory ailments, the Post said.
Symptoms of e-cigarette-related lung injury include breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or chest pain. Some patients have reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness, including vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.
As WIS News in Columbia has reported, many of the symptoms of vaping-related illness and the flu are similar, such as coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and vomiting. The two – the flu and e-cigarette lung injury – can co-exist and amplify each other, making the combination more dangerous and potentially deadly.
CDC Recommendations About Vaping
The CDC says that since the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury is not yet known, “the only way to ensure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to refrain from use of all vaping products.
Further, the CDC recommends that you do not use vaping products that contain THC. The CDC also recommends that people do not:
- Buy any type of e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly those containing THC, off the street.
- Modify or add any substances to e-cigarette or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products bought through retail establishments.
SC DHEC adds that e-cigarettes should never be used with other smoked tobacco products and that “these products are not safe for youth or young adults.”
South Carolina is one of several states where it is illegal for minors to buy or possess e-cigarettes or other electronic nicotine distribution systems (ENDS).
Get Legal Help for Vaping Lung Damages
South Carolina residents injured by the use of e-cigarette vaping products may be entitled to seek compensation for their medical bills and other losses through a product liability claim. Numerous states and local school districts have filed lawsuits against leading e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, charging that the e-cig maker purposely targeted teens and young adults with flavored vaping products.
As The New York Times reports, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest seller of e-cigarettes, announced ahead of an anticipated FDA flavor ban that it would discontinue sales of mint-flavored pods, which teenagers have cited as among their favorites. Previously, Juul settled a lawsuit by agreeing to stop advertising to youths.
The first individual lawsuits over vaping injuries and deaths have already been filed across the country and many more e-cigarette lung injury lawsuits are expected.
Companies that design, produce and sell products have an obligation to make them safe or adequately warn about any inherent dangers. When they fail to do so, they should be made to compensate the victims of their defective products.
The South Carolina defective products attorneys of Joye Law Firm can help you seek full compensation if a defective vaping product is to blame for your injuries. We have nearly 250 years of combined legal experience and are committed to helping people who have suffered a life-changing injury because of unsafe products. Contact Joye Law Firm today.