Story at a glance

  • Vaping-related lung injuries have gotten 2,000 people sick and killed at least 39.
  • Now the CDC has announced a breakthrough finding: the vape cartridge additive vitamin E acetate may be to blame.

The oil vitamin E acetate has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the likely cause behind the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths. Health officials are calling the findings a “breakthrough,” the Washington Post reports.

To date, vaping-related lung conditions have afflicted 2,000 people and killed at least 39. 

Vitamin E appears in a variety of foods like vegetable oil, olive oil and almonds. Vitamin E acetate is the chemical name for the oil that can be made from vitamin E, which is frequently used in supplements and skin creams. 

There’s no evidence to suggest rubbing vitamin E on your skin or swallowing it in the form of a supplement causes harm, but experts say its molecular structure may make it more dangerous when inhaled. The oil’s potential interactions with the lungs may have caused the fits of coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain reported by many patients, officials told the Post.

In black market THC vape cartridges, vitamin E acetate can be used as an additive or filler to increase profits.

In all 29 samples tested, the CDC found “direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs,” Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Washington Post. 

The tests looked for various ingredients, including plant oils and petroleum derivatives like mineral oil, but vitamin E acetate was the only potential toxin detected, according to Schuchat.

The findings don’t rule out other potential causes but the findings join a growing body of evidence pointing to vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit of concern,” she said.

Published on Nov 08, 2019