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Patterns Emerge in Vaping Lung Injury Cases

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The results of a data analysis regarding lung injuries caused by e-cigarette use, or vaping, suggest unregulated, and possibly tainted, THC products may play a role.

As of September 24, there have been 805 cases from 46 states and one territory reported to the CDC regarding lung injuries possibly associated with vaping. In the agency’s latest report, officials noted that of these 805 cases, 514 self-reported the substances used in their e-cigarette devices before injury. Of these, about 77% reported using THC-containing products, with or without nicotine-containing products; 36% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.

In a related investigation, federal officials conducted more detailed interviews with 86 patients from Illinois and Wisconsin. Overall, 75 of those patients reported using e-cigarette products with THC. Further, this report revealed that nearly all the THC-containing products were prefilled cartridges acquired from informal, unregulated sources (i.e., off the street, from illicit sources, or through family and friends). Still, officials are not drawing any hard conclusions about specific injury causes.

“Continued monitoring of patient case counts and characteristics, as well as substances used with e-cigarette … products, is critical to informing the ongoing investigation and helping to identify the cause,” CDC officials wrote. “CDC and state health departments continue to collect and analyze epidemiologic data to better understand what types of devices and products patients are using (e.g., cartridges and e-liquids), the source of products or location where they were obtained, and the patterns (e.g., duration and frequency) of specific product use. Given the vast number of chemicals used in e-cigarette … products, it is important to link epidemiologic data with findings from laboratory analyses of products and clinical specimens from patients.”

Regarding unregulated THC vaping products, a group of reporters recently released the findings of their exhaustive investigation into these substances, tracing the journey “from China’s labs to your lungs.”

“These unfortunate incidents reinforce the need for greater regulation, standardization, and oversight of the cannabis market, principles which NORML has consistently called for in the cannabis space,” Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), recently said in a statement. “Consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal; quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace.”

In the upcoming November issue of ED Management, the cover story on this issue urges frontline providers to look for breathing problems, coughing, or chest pain, particularly in younger patients. Many patients who have been hospitalized with lung injuries related to vaping are between ages 18 and 25 years. Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or abdominal pain. For much more on the science behind this growing health concern, be sure to read the issue.