Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Vaping Lung Damage Compared to Chemical Weapon Burns in New Study

Health + Wellness
Histopathology of Acute Lung Injury Associated with Vaping. New England Journal of Medicine

People who develop respiratory illnesses after using e-cigarettes to vape nicotine and marijuana are showing symptoms akin to chemical burns in their lungs, according to new research by Mayo Clinic doctors.


The illness is causing lung damage that resembles injuries from chemical weapons used in World War I such as mustard gas and those found in industrial workers after a toxic chemical spill, Dr. Brandon Larsen, an Arizona-based surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study, told the New York Times.

The doctors, who published their findings this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined biopsies from 17 of the more than 800 people around the country since April who have developed a deadly respiratory illness from vaping — including two who died from the illness.

"All 17 of our cases show a pattern of injury in the lung that looks like a toxic chemical exposure, a toxic chemical fume exposure, or a chemical burn injury," Larsen told the Times.

The study marks the first formal research using lung tissue samples of patients with the mystery illness, and the first time toxic chemicals have been considered as the primary culprit.

Previously, the prevailing theory was that oil additives in vape juice had been causing fatty acid to build up in the lungs, CNBC reported, but no cases in the Mayo Clinic study showed any evidence to that effect.

Instead, the doctors observed tissue damage and cell death in the airways and lungs suggestive of pneumonia from inhaling "noxious chemical fumes." According to the New York Times, when the body tries to heal the damage, swelling tissue and fluid build up can make breathing even more difficult.

"Based on what we have seen in our study, we suspect that most cases involve chemical contaminants, toxic byproducts or other noxious agents within vape liquids," Larsen said in a press release.

Finding out exactly which chemicals are causing the illness will require additional research, Larsen told CNN, but researchers have begun to hone in on patterns across the cases that could eventually point to the cause.

For instance, the Mayo Clinic researchers said that more than 70 percent of the cases involved people who vaped marijuana or cannabis oils, CNN reported.

This supports previous reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that 77 percent of patients who reported having the illness had used vape products that were acquired illicitly and often contained THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

As of Thursday, respiratory illnesses from vaping were linked to 17 deaths in Alabama, Virginia, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Florida and Georgia.

In response to the outbreak, a number of states have issued bans on vapes and the CDC has warned against using e-cigarettes and buying vape products off the street. The agency also urged users to avoid adding any substances to vaping products that were not intended by the manufacturer.

"Everyone should recognize that vaping is not without potential risks, including life-threatening risks, and I think our research supports that," Larsen said in the press release. "It would seem prudent based on our observations to explore ways to better regulate the industry and better educate the public, especially our youth, about the risks associated with vaping."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Lit candles, flowers and signs are seen in front of the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, Poland on May 31, 2020. Aleksander Kalka / NurPhoto / Getty Images

As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.

Read More Show Less
Sockeye salmon are seen swimming at a fish farm. Natalie Fobes / Getty Images

By Peter Beech

Using waste food to farm insects as fish food and high-tech real-time water quality monitoring: innovations that could help change global aquaculture, were showcased at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2020.

Read More Show Less
Shanika Reaux walks through the devastated Lower Ninth Ward on May 10, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana, after her home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Mario Tama / Getty Images

The big three broadcast channels failed to cover the disproportionate impacts of extreme weather on low-income communities or communities of color during their primetime coverage of seven hurricanes and one tropical storm over three years, a Media Matters for America analysis revealed.

Read More Show Less
Several drugmakers and research institutions are working on vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to help people infected with COVID-19. krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.

Read More Show Less
The Sumatran rhino is one of 515 endangered species of land animals on the brink of extinction. Mark Carwardine / Photolibrary / Getty Images

The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.

Read More Show Less
People are having a hard time trying to understand what information is reliable and what information they can trust. Aekkarak Thongjiew / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.

They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Workers clean up a crude oil leak from a pipeline in Minnesota in 2002. JOEY MCLEISTER / Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Trump administration has finalized a rule making it harder for states and tribal communities to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects that threaten waterways.

Read More Show Less