Nearly half of the THC-containing vaping samples analyzed in the federal investigation of lung illnesses contain vitamin E acetate, a dangerous diluting agent, government officials said Friday.
Vitamin E acetate is used by some in the cannabis industry to cheaply thin the THC oil used to ingest the drug through vaping devices. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical responsible for most of the psychological effects of marijuana.
Colorado, which was the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use only, recently banned vitamin E acetate.
Despite the widespread public alarm over vaping, there is little evidence of a slowing of the lung illnesses, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are also reports of people being readmitted from five to 55 days after hospitalization for lung injury, but it’s unclear whether it was due to a resumption of vaping or other causes.
CDC reported Thursday the number of lung injury cases linked to vaping has jumped to 1,299 and deaths to 26.
In 573 of the lung-injury cases, 76% reported using products containing THC, with or without nicotine-containing products. Thirteen percent of those with lung illness reported only using nicotine, so Schuchat said „we cannot exclude the possibility that nicotine-containing products play a role.”
Officials said they may learn there is more than one reason for the rash of illnesses that began last spring.
„There does not appear to be one product or substance” in all of the cases, Dr. Ned Sharpless, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Friday.
Testing to date, he said, has found a „broad range of chemicals,” including metals, cutting agents pesticides and other toxins he said. Vitamin E acetate was found in 47% of the THC tested.
Cases of lung illness have now occurred in all states but Alaska. The 26 confirmed deaths were in 21 states: Alabama, California (3), Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia (2), Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (2), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon (2), Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
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