State and federal health officials studying mysterious lung illnesses connected to vaping have discovered the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks.
The substance is an oil obtained from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that knowledge with state health officials in a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call.
That same chemical was also observed in nearly all cannabis samples from patients who fell ill in New York in recent weeks, a state health department spokeswoman stated.
Vitamin E occurs naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil, and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin, known as vitamin E acetate, is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. Its sobriquet seems innocuous, experts stated, but its molecular composition could make it dangerous when inhaled. Its oil-like properties could be associated with the genera of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials stated.
State health departments are promulgating new cases weekly. As of Aug. 27, there have been 215 possible cases reported from 25 states. Further stories of lung illnesses are under investigation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is directing the investigation.
On Wednesday, Oregon health authorities announced a middle-aged adult who died in late July of severe respiratory illness had used an e-cigarette containing marijuana oil obtained from a licensed dispensary. It’s the second death linked to vaping nationwide and the first to be linked to a product bought at a store. Illinois officials reported the first death last week. They did not particularize what kind of product was used in that case.