Principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a Friday press call that out of 29 tissue samples from lung injury patients across 10 states, vitamin E acetate was present in 23, all of whom had admitted they used THC, the high-inducing chemical derived from marijuana.
Still, Schuchat said it’s too early to single out vitamin E acetate, which is toxic if inhaled, as the ingredient responsible for the 2,051 lung injuries.
“This is more robust information than if it all came from a single location where perhaps a single common force would have led to this occurrence,” Schuchat said. “To point to vitamin E acetate … doesn’t mean there aren’t other components causing lung harm. We want to understand the cause or causes.”
While THC would not normally remain in a user’s lungs for long, vitamin E acetate is thick and sticky enough that it was easy for physicians to insert a bronchial tube into the patient’s lungs, soak the area with simple saline, and extract the leftover vaping oils from the fluid lining of the lungs.
Despite the CDC’s breakthrough in nailing down a possible culprit for the hospitalizations and deaths due to the vaping illness, known as EVALI, Schuchat maintained that people should still avoid nicotine vaping products, even though physicians could not conclude whether they too contained the deadly oil.
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