Update: CDC Discovers Possible Connection in Vape-Related Lung Injury Cases

UPDATE: November 12, 2019 – 7:20 p.m. PDT – Doctors at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital today announced that a seventeen-year old Michigan boy has received a double lung transplant, due to lung damage caused by vaping. He is the first EVALI patient to require transplant surgery in order to avoid “imminent death.”

At a press conference, doctors did not reveal what products the teen had been vaping. According to news organization Reuters, the patient’s family asked doctors to share information about the case in order to raise awareness of the seriousness of EVALI for other teens and parents.


The teen was first admitted to St. John’s Hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia in early September. By mid-September, his condition worsened so that he was intubated. His lung function had so deteriorated by October 3; he was within days of dying without a double lung transplant. The transplant was performed October 15, and the teen has received a “good” prognosis, according to doctors.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Thursday that, after testing bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples gathered from twenty-nine patients suffering from EVALI (E-cigarettes or Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury), they found that all of the samples contained Vitamin E acetate.

Also called Tocopheryl acetate, early speculation pointed out Vitamin E acetate as a possible culprit. A chemical compound that is commonly used as a thickening agent in topical and ingestible applications, experts have said that the process of heating the compound during the vaping process may cause a toxic reaction.

“This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries,” the CDC statement noted, and added, “These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs.”

The weekly update said that of the twenty-nine samples that were examined, eighty-two percent contained THC and sixty-two percent contained nicotine.

While the discovery of Vitamin E acetate in the samples was significant, officials still do not know the precise cause of EVALI, and if it can be attributed to a single compound, a chemical reaction, or might be caused by the vaping process. The CDC investigation into the cause of the vape-related lung injury epidemic is ongoing, involving multiple federal agencies and state public health officials.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal director at the CDC, told reporters in a media teleconference that more than one chemical might be responsible. Tech publication TechCrunch pointed out that because many of the THC-infused vape products were bought from illicit vendors, the types of chemicals used to produce unregulated products may vary greatly, even from batch to batch.

Dr. Schuchat told reporters that Vitamin E acetate might be used in vape liquid formulations in order to “cut” the product.

Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Dr. Manar Alshahrouri, who is a pulmonary specialist, told local FOX11 news that Vitamin E acetate is often used as a thickener because it gives the final product a viscous texture that some consumers associate with better product. He also pointed out that there is “limited” information available regarding the affects of the substance when inhaled or super-heated in the vaping process.

Nonprofit advocacy group Project CBD published a report on synthetic cannabinoids after an “extensive review of scientific literature,” that found a number of cases that filled the CDC criteria for EVALI-type lung injury, and had been the result of the subject’s exposure to synthetic cannabinoids.

Titled “Under the Radar: Synthetic Cannabinoids and Vaping-Related Lung Injuries,” the report went on to outline the possible connection between lung injury and use of synthetic cannabinoids, which are created specifically for lab use, and not meant for human consumption.

As of November 5, there were 2,051 cases attributed to EVALI across forty-nine states, with thirty-nine deaths in twenty-four states.

On Friday, President Donald Trump told reporters that his administration would raise the legal age for vaping to “twenty-one or so.”

Ed. Note: This is a developing news story, more information will be added as it becomes available. See mg‘s previous coverage for earlier details about the epidemic.