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Severe lung damage from vapor from e-cigarettes
Inhaling the vapor from e-cigarettes and so-called vaporizers can lead to serious damage to the lung tissue, according to a recent study. However, the cause is not the accumulation of pollutants from the evaporated liquids, but the researchers observed "a kind of direct chemical injury, similar to the exposure to toxic chemical vapors, toxic gases and toxic substances", says study leader Dr. Brandon Larsen of the Mayo Clinic in the USA.
Since the first deaths have been linked to the use of e-cigarettes, an intensive search for the causes has been ongoing in the United States. In the current study, the researchers now used lung biopsies to examine the damage that steam causes to the lung tissue. The result is worrying, the research team said. Apparently, the steam has a direct chemical injury to the lung tissue. The results of the study were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
800 diseases and 12 deaths in the United States
According to the researchers, more than 800 cases of lung injuries that have been linked to the use of electronic cigarettes or vaporizing have been reported to the U.S. Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recent months. Twelve deaths from ten different states have now been confirmed, but what exactly has caused fatal damage to the lungs has remained unclear. A connection to liquids containing THC (psychoactive compound in marijuana) or other cannabis components (e.g. cannabidiol; CBD) is suspected, but this has not yet been finally confirmed.
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Temporary sales bans imposed
In some U.S. states, a temporary ban on selling e-cigarettes and flavored liquids has been imposed due to illnesses and deaths until it is resolved, causing serious illnesses. For its part, the American Lung Association expressly warns that e-cigarettes are not safe and can cause irreversible lung damage and disease.
Lung biopsies examined for damage
In order to determine how the lung tissue is damaged, the research team led by Dr. Brandon Larsen of the Mayo Clinic is now examining the lung biopsies of 17 patients who have used all vaporized or e-cigarettes and have associated lung damage. "All showed acute lung injuries, including pneumonia, and two of the patients died," the research team said in a Mayo Clinic press release on the study results. 71 percent of the participants vaped marijuana or cannabis oil.
"Direct chemical injury"
Surprisingly, the studies showed no evidence of tissue damage caused by the accumulation of the pollutants from the lipids (for example mineral oils). So far, this has been suspected as a possible cause of lung damage. A potential involvement of the lipids cannot be ruled out, "but we have seen nothing to suggest that this is a problem caused by lipid accumulation in the lungs," said the study leader. According to Dr. Instead, Larsen's lung damage appears to be caused by "a kind of direct chemical injury, similar to exposure to toxic chemical vapors, toxic gases and toxic substances".
Sudden increase in cases
According to the researchers, this is a possible explanation for the severe lung damage that is associated with the use of e-cigarettes. In the past two years, "we first saw a handful of cases, scattered isolated cases, in which we observed the same thing, and now we see a sudden increase in cases," warns Dr. Larsen. This is a "public health crisis, and many people are busy working around the clock to find out what could be the trigger - and what chemicals could be responsible."
Don't underestimate the risks of e-cigarettes
The research team concludes that chemical impurities, toxic by-products, or other harmful substances in the vaporized media may have been the cause of the lung damage in most cases. However, they could not clearly identify the trigger. In principle, all users should be aware of the potential risks, including life-threatening lung damage, and it seems necessary to regulate the industry much more strictly, emphasizes Dr. (fp)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- Brandon T. Larsen, et al .: Pathology of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury; in: The New England Journal of Medicine (published 02.10.2019), nejm.org
- Mayo Clinic: Vaping-associated lung injury may be caused by toxic chemical fumes, study finds (published 02.10.2019), mayoclinic.org