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The number of vaping-related lung illnesses has topped 1,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday.
As of Oct. 1, there have been 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of lung illness tied to vaping reported to the CDC, including 18 deaths. The outbreak, which started early this summer, is showing no sign of slowing.
“The increasing number of lung injury cases we see associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is deeply concerning,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.
“Unfortunately, this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the escalating health threat this outbreak poses to the American public, particularly youth and young adults,” Redfield added. “CDC will continue to work with FDA and state health partners to investigate the cause, or causes, of this outbreak and to bring an end to these lung injuries.”
Most of the 578 patients who have been interviewed by health officials said they had vaped THC with or without nicotine products, the CDC said.
Still, the CDC says it still doesn’t know the cause of the illnesses, and no brand or substance has been linked to all cases.
It might not be THC or nicotine that is making people sick, but any number of the chemicals or additives that are found in vaping liquids, particularly those bought off the street.
“We really want to caution people that it is pretty much impossible for you to know what is in e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly THC-containing products bought off the street or bought off social sources,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat.
A study released last week showed showed some patients in Illinois and Wisconsin became sick after vaping THC products sold under the brand name “Dank Vapes,” which does not appear to be a legitimate manufacturer.
Most of the patients also reported getting their products off the street or from friends and family.
Throughout the U.S., some patients that have become sick have been hospitalized with lipoid pneumonia, a rare form of pneumonia that is caused by fat or oil particles entering the lungs. Many of the THC vapes used by patients have also tested positive for Vitamin E Acetate, an oil that is found in lotion or dietary supplements but could be harmful if inhaled into the lungs.
But the Mayo Clinic said Thursday it didn’t find any oils in its review of 17 lung biopsies.
Instead, researchers said, it appears the lungs have been injured by toxic chemical fumes.
Asked about the Mayo study, Schuchat said different products could cause different injuries.
“I think we really have a feeling right now that there might be a lot of nasty things in e-cigarettes or vaping products that may cause different harms in the lung,” Schuchat said.