By Mike Stobbe, Associated Press
(AP) — Health officials said they have more evidence that a certain chemical compound is a culprit in a national outbreak of vaping illnesses.
Researchers analyzed black market vaping cartridges seized in Minnesota during the outbreak this year, and vaping liquid seized in that state last year. The newer black market cartridges contained the compound known as vitamin E acetate, but none of the older samples did.
They also looked at black market vaping cartridges collected from a dozen patients. Vitamin E acetate was commonly found in those, too.
The study was small, but it echoes other work that found the compound in the damaged lungs of 29 patients across the country.
“The findings further support a potential role for vitamin E acetate in causing lung injury associated with vaping products,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, a Minnesota health official.
Nearly 2,300 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teens and young adults, according to a recent tally by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 47 people have died.
Most who got sick said they had used black market marijuana vaping products. Vitamin E acetate has recently been used as a thickener in illicit vaporizers that contain THC, officials say.
Last month, a California-based marijuana testing company tested over 200 samples of legal vape cartridge oils from state-licensed marijuana dispensaries as well as 15 samples from the black market. They found that 9 of the 15 black market samples contained vitamin E acetate at over 20%, with some close to 50%, while none of the 200+ samples from the legal marijuana industry showed signs of adulteration. Furthermore, of the illegal vape oils, they found that “all samples had at least 1 pesticide present at over 20x the legal limit.”