Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials may have found a common denominator among people across the country who have fallen seriously ill with respiratory infections after vaping – a chemical derived from vitamin E in the marijuana products the patients had vaped.
Testing on nicotine products vaped by the patients did not turn up anything unusual, but officials say they aren’t ruling out the possibility of adulterants in nicotine vaping products.
Vitamin E is found naturally in meats and poultry, fruits and vegetables, as well as canola and vegetable oil. Vitamin E acetate, the oil derivative from vitamin E, is available as a dietary supplement and is often used as a topical skin treatment. Consuming vitamin E oil is not considered harmful. But inhaling it could cause inflammation that can lead to respiratory problems like coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain – symptoms reported by the people who have fallen ill after vaping.
As of Aug. 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 215 cases of respiratory illnesses in 25 states possibly linked to vaping. To date, two deaths from severe respiratory illness have occurred in people who vaped – the first was reported last week by Illinois health officials. The second involved an Oregon adult who died in late July. The marijuana oil used by that victim was purchased from a legal dispensary. Authorities didn’t specify what products the first victim used.
The FDA said it is analyzing more than 100 samples for a variety of chemicals in vaping products including nicotine, THC, other cannabinoids and cutting agents used to dilute vaping liquids. So far, the FDA has tested 12 nicotine samples and 18 THC samples. High levels of vitamin E acetate was found in 10 of the THC samples.
“Vitamin E acetate is not an approved additive for New York State Medical Marijuana Program-authorized vape samples,” a New York health department spokesperson said.