Breakthrough in CDC vaping illness investigation: Vitamin E acetate linked to THC may be to blame

Vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes used in THC and other vaping products, may be to blame for a national outbreak of e-cigarette-related lung injuries...

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 2:58 PM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 4:00 PM

Vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes used in THC and other vaping products, may be to blame for a national outbreak of e-cigarette-related lung injuries that's linked to dozens of deaths, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, said she would characterize it as a breakthrough in the agency's investigation, although more tests are necessary.

'These new findings are significant,' Schuchat said during a press briefing on Friday. 'We have a strong culprit.'

There is still more work to do and the CDC said it is continuing to test for a wide range of chemicals.

'This does not rule out other possible ingredients,' Schuchat said. 'There may be more than one cause.'

The CDC says its tests found vitamin E acetate in samples taken from 29 patients who were sick with vaping-related illness in 10 states. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, or its metabolites were detected in 23 of 28 patients. Nicotine metabolites were detected in 16 of 26 patient specimens.

During the press briefing, CDC's Dr. James Pirkle described vitamin E acetate as 'enormously sticky' when it goes into the lungs, and it 'does hang around.' Pirkle said it wouldn't be unusual for THC to be absent from some of the samples because it leaves the lungs faster. He added finding THC in 82% of the samples from 28 patients was 'noteworthy.'

In September, New York health officials linked cases of severe lung illness to vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing vaping products. At the time, investigators said it was 'a key focus' of the state's investigation into the illnesses.

'The CDC's reporting supports what New York State's Wadsworth Center Lab has found in vape products tested since early September and reinforces the importance of the role that Vitamin E acetate may play in the current outbreak of vaping related illnesses,' New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Friday. 'While no definitive cause has been found, as I've said from the very beginning: if you don't know what you are smoking, don't smoke it.'

Until the investigation is complete, the CDC suggests people refrain from using all vaping products with THC, no matter where people buy them. The investigation has found that many of these products patients used were bought online or received through friends or family, rather than through vaping shops or at licensed THC dispensaries.

Vitamin E is used in several products, such as lotions and in supplements, but the CDC said there is a 'big difference' in putting vitamin E on the skin or swallowing it in pill and in inhaling the oily vitamin.

Dr. Jennifer Layden, the chief medical officer and state epidemiologist with the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in the press briefing that in her state, they found the majority of cases of the people who were sick used THC, and that their materials came from 'informal sources.' In Illinois, she said, they had not had any cases associated with the state's medical marijuana program.

So far, there have been 2,051 cases of vaping associated illnesses, reported in every state, except for Alaska, as of November 5. States have reported at least 40 deaths.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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