CDC Announces Breakthrough in Finding Cause of Vaping Injuries and Deaths

On Friday, November 8, 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a major announcement regarding the rocketing rate of people who’ve suffered lung injuries, including fatal ones, as the result of vaping. The CDC previously expressed serious concern about what it described as a “major outbreak” of vaping injuries, which topped over 2,000 victims the week of the agency’s announcement on a breakthrough regarding the cause of the illnesses and fatalities. As of the beginning of November, 39 people died as a result of lung-related vaping injuries.

The CDC explained that it undertook a close examination of lung samples from 29 people who suffered lung injuries as a result of vaping. The investigation revealed that in all of these patients, what is known as vitamin E acetate was found in their lung samples. The CDC confirmed this is the first, and thus far only, link between the patients suffering vaping lung injury. In addition to describing this discovery as a breakthrough, the principle deputy director of the CDC added that the vitamin E acetate is a “very strong culprit of concern.”

Vitamin E acetate commonly is utilized as a so-called “cutting agent” for marijuana that is smoked for recreational purposes and is purchased through what might be called an “off-market” vendor. More directly, vitamin E acetate is used to cut pot illegally. It is not typically utilized as a cutting agent by companies that sell marijuana in states that that lawfully permit such sales.

Approximately 85 percent of people diagnoses with a vaping lung injury self-reported that they had used products containing THC. THC is the chemical in marijuana that “gets people high.”

In a separate but related report from the Illinois Department of Health, that agency also reported that people who vaped products containing THC frequently or exclusively appeared to make up the majority of vaping injury cases. In addition, the agency noted that these users were nine-times more likely to obtain products containing THC from illegal sources.

The CDC also reported that there appears to be a small number of people who had no evidence of THC in their lung samples that nonetheless had vitamin E acetate in their tissue. These people did have nicotine in their lung samples. Thus, there remains concern regarding how individuals who do not appear to have used illicitly obtained TCH products ended up with the common street-pot cutting agent in their lungs.

The focus now seems to be shifting as to why vaping interacts with vitamin E acetate in such a way that users become injured as a result. There is no evidence that lung injuries occur when illicitly obtained marijuana is ingested via other delivery systems.

Another shift in focus is apt to be in the direction of what vape pen manufacturers and others in that industry may independently know about causes of vaping lung injury. In addition, a consideration of how consumers have been warned about potential dangers associated with vaping is also going to head into the forefront.

Prior to the release of the statement by the CDC in the agency’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, health agencies have issues what can be considered tepid warnings at best regarding vaping lung injury. Vape pen manufacturers have fairly consistently stood by what they described as the safety of their products.

Even in situations in which a person purchased a THC off-market, a person with vaping lung injury may have a claim against a vape pen maker. As noted, there appears to be something in the mechanics or operation of a vape pen coupled with vitamin E acetate that result in serious lung injury for some people.

Under the legal doctrine of comparative negligence, even if a vape user is possibly negligent in the manner in which he or she obtains a product containing THC, if a vape pen manufacturer is also deemed negligence, the a person with vaping injury may be able to make a claim for damages and compensation.

The vaping injury lawyer team at the nationwide law practice of The Doan Law Firm is available to answer questions and provide case evaluations to people suffering from these types of injuries. An initial consultation and case evaluation can be arranged by calling (800) 349-0000. The Doan Law Firm charges nothing for an initial consultation and makes an attorney fee promise to all clients. Our firm never charges a fee unless we win for you.