This Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 photo shows a vitamin E acetate sample during a tour of the Medical Marijuana Laboratory of Organic and Analytical Chemistry at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, N.Y. On Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said fluid extracted from 29 lung injury patients who vaped contained the chemical compound in all of them. AP Photo
Vitamin E acetate, an ingredient added to THC-based products, has been identified as a “very strong culprit” in the vaping-related lung injuries that have sickened 2,051 people and killed 39, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
But the agency left open the possibility that other chemicals or toxins could also be causing the severe respiratory ailments.
The report is based on finding the vitamin compound in fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients who had the lung disease.
“These new findings are significant,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, according to the Tribune Content Agency. Schuchat spoke in a conference call, declaring the discovery a breakthrough in the investigation.
“For the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern, vitamin E acetate, from biological samples from patients,” with lung damage linked to vaping, Schuchat said.
Samples taken from the patients were also tested for plant oils, petroleum distillates like mineral oil and other potentially harmful substances, which were “notably not detected,” the CDC said. The findings are being published in Friday’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
About 70% of the patients are male, 79% are younger than 35 and 86% say that they have vaped THC.
Many of the products used by those who became ill were illicitly obtained, public health experts have said, by patients who bought them from friends or on the street. Vaping oils typically include other additives, solvents and flavor enhancers. Vitamin E acetate is sometimes added to dilute the THC to increase profits or as a thickening agent.
Health investigators have said since nearly the beginning of the outbreak in mid-August that some ingredients, including vitamin E acetate, could be responsible for some of the lung illness cases.
The CDC has said that in a small percentage of confirmed illnesses, patients had reported using nicotine-only products, the Tribune Content Agency reported.
State health officials in New York had first identified vitamin E acetate from several samples collected in August that were analyzed by the Wadsworth Center lab.