The first fatality attributed to a mysterious lung ailment associated with vaping has been reported in Illinois.
The patient’s death was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday. The agency provided few details on the victim, saying only that the adult patient had vaped recently.
“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products,” said CDC director Robert R. Redfield, MD. “Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavorings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared.”
The CDC is currently investigating 193 cases of the mystery vaping illness in 22 states.
All occurred between July 28 and August 20th, with the majority involving teens or young adults. So far, all of the victims have reported vaping or using e-cigarettes, either with nicotine or cannabis-based liquids. Symptoms have included difficulty breathing, chest pain, vomiting, and fatigue.
The most seriously ill victims suffered severe lung damage, required treatment with oxygen, and spent days on ventilators. In some cases, their lung damage was permanent.
So far, investigators have not been able to pinpoint any specific e-cigarette brands, and they have no idea if contaminants or a defective vaping device might be involved.
The mystery vaping illness might have been triggered by known or suspected toxins contained in e-cigarette liquids. A CDC official told The New York Times that those potential lung irritants include “ultrafine particulates, some heavy metals, such as lead,” adding there “are also concerns about some flavorings.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has no power to regulate or otherwise control the contents of vaping liquids.
It’s also possible that some individuals are emptying nicotine pods and filling those with marijuana oil and other ingredients.
“We believe that they are getting empty cartridges from somewhere and filling them with their own products,” Nancy Gerking, assistant director of public health in Kings County, Calif., told the Times “We don’t know what they are cutting it with or anything else.
So far, however, investigator have not been able to determine if the devices involved in the mystery vaping illness were manufactured by mass-market companies or counterfeiters, or whether the inhalants were standard e-liquids or something consumers mixed or made themselves.