The CDC announced today that they are finally on board with the leading theory about what’s causing the vaping illness they are calling EVALI: vitamin E acetate, found mainly in THC vapes. A new technique for sampling lung fluid revealed that all of the patients tested—a convenience sample of 29 people from 10 states—had vitamin A acetate in their lungs.
There was no such consistent result for other chemicals that had been suspected as causing the illness, including “plant oils, petroleum distillates like mineral oil, MCT oil, and terpenes.”
82% of the samples included THC; 62% included nicotine. That means that some included both. Vitamin E acetate is known to be an additive in THC vapes, especially certain black-market cartridges. So far, the vaping illness has been identified in over 2,000 people from 49 states, with 39 deaths.
The agency says they are still open to considering other chemicals as the investigation continues: “While it appears that vitamin E acetate is associated with EVALI, evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other chemicals of concern to EVALI.”
While the CDC’s initial warnings included telling people to avoid “e-cigarettes,” they have finally updated their message to state that by e-cigarettes they really mean vaping products, and that right now they’re specifically concerned about THC vapes. That doesn’t mean other vaping products are in the clear—it’s possible some of those contain vitamin A acetate too, or that another chemical is involved—but at this point it sounds like the CDC agrees that vitamin A acetate in THC vapes is the thing that’s most worth worrying about right now. Here is their newest announcement, emphasis in original:
Recent CDC laboratory testing of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (or samples of fluid collected from the lungs) from 29 patients with EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the BAL fluid samples. Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries.
CDC continues to recommend that people should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers. We will continue to provide updates as more data become available.
More information from the CDC on EVALI and the new results is available here.