(AP) The number of deaths and ill health after use of e-cigarettes in the US continues to rise. US authorities registered a total of five deaths by Friday (local time). The US Department of Health (CDC) reported three confirmed deaths in Illinois, Oregon and Indiana. In addition, authorities in California and Minnesota each reported a death. According to the CDC, more than 450 possible diseases have been reported in 33 states – more than twice as many cases as in the last published state.
The investigators warned all users of e-cigarettes before use because of possible lung damage. Even if there was a trace, the cause of the enigmatic diseases was not yet certain: “At this time, no connection between a product or a substance was made in all cases,” said CDC expert Dana Meaney-Delman.
In the United States, reports of unexplained lung diseases that occur after the consumption of e-cigarettes have accumulated in recent months. The affected are often young and actually healthy. Symptoms ranged from difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain to cases of gastrointestinal disorders with vomiting and diarrhea. Many of those affected had so-called liquids – liquids that are vaporized – with the psychoactive cannabis drug THC consumed. Some US states allow the sale of related THC products.
Vitamin E acetate in e-liquids suspected
The Washington Post had reported on Thursday from a trail to a potentially responsible substance. It was a so-called vitamin E acetate, the investigators had found in samples of cannabis products that had previously smoked the patients. It occurs in different brands and in several of the liquids. CDC expert Meaney-Delman confirmed on Friday that the vitamin E acetate had been detected in some laboratory samples, but gave no further details. Vitamin E occurs naturally in various foods such as oils or nuts.
Ileana Arias, deputy director of the CDC Department of Non-Infectious Diseases, spoke of progress in the investigation. The cause of the complaints is slowly becoming clearer: “The focus of the investigation is narrowing, and that’s great news.”
Cause of the diseases not yet clarified
There are also indications that the increase in cases is actually new-occurring diseases – and not just discovered only now. Illinois investigators looked for similar cases in the past: “It looks like there has been an increase in cases since May or June 2019 over 2018. That would suggest it’s a new phenomenon,” said Jennifer Layden of the Illinois state health department. She stressed that these are preliminary findings.
In Asia or Europe so far no similar increase of the mysterious cases is known. The complaints seem to be confined to users of e-cigarettes in the United States.