Friday December 6, 2019

US: CDC Identifies 193 Potential Cases of Severe Lung Illness Tied to Vaping in 22 States

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users

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US, CDC, Vaping
FILE - A high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass., April 11, 2018. VOA

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult in Illinois who died after being hospitalized.

The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused by vaping.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users, according to the World Health Organization. But the long-term health effects of vaping are largely unknown.

No link to specific product

US, CDC, Vaping
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult. Pixabay

In a briefing with reporters, representatives from health agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said they have not linked the illnesses to any specific product and that some patients had reporting vaping with cannabis liquids.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency was analyzing product samples from states to identify any potentially harmful elements that may be triggering the illnesses.

He said health agencies were trying to learn which specific vaping products were used and whether they were being used as intended or mixed with other substances.

“Those kinds of facts need to be strung together for every single one of these cases, so that we can see if any other kinds of patterns have emerged,” Zeller said.

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The number of potential cases has more than doubled over the past week. On Aug. 17, the CDC said it was investigating 94 potential lung illnesses in 14 states.

Brian King, deputy director of research translation at the CDC’s smoking and health division, said it was possible there might have been earlier cases that health agencies had not identified.

Possible health implications

“The bottom line is that there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosols that could have implications for lung health,” said King, adding that none of those compounds had been directly linked to the recent hospitalizations.

US, CDC, Vaping
The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused. Pixabay

In a statement Thursday, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said he was “confident” the illnesses were being caused by devices containing cannabis or other synthetic drugs, not nicotine.

Patients have reported difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and sometimes chest pain before being hospitalized. Some have shown symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.

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“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement earlier. (VOA)

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E-Cigarette user Diagnosed with Pneumoconiosis: Study

Vaping leaves e-cigarette user with rare lung scarring

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An e-cigarette user has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung scarring. Pixabay

An e-cigarette user has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung scarring typically found in metal workers, says a new study.

Doctors diagnosed the patient with hard-metal pneumoconiosis, a rare form of lung disease that causes irreparable damage, persistent coughing and breathing issues.

It is typically diagnosed in people who work with ‘hard metals’, such as cobalt or tungsten, in jobs like tool sharpening, diamond polishing or making dental prosthetics.

According to the study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, this is the first known case where the disease has been linked to vaping.

E-cigarette effects
Doctors diagnosed the patient with hard-metal pneumoconiosis caused due to vaping e-cigarette. Pixabay

“Hard-metal pneumoconiosis is diagnosed by looking at a sample of patient’s lung tissue under the microscope. It has a distinctive and unusual appearance that is not observed in other diseases. When we diagnose it, we are looking for occupational exposure to metal dust or vapour, usually cobalt, as a cause,” said study researcher Kirk Jones from University of California in the US.

“This patient did not have any known exposure to hard metal, so we identified the use of an e-cigarette as a possible cause,” Jones said.

Hard-metal pneumoconiosis causes damaged lung cells to engulf other cells and form ‘giant’ cells that can be seen clearly under a microscope.

It can result in permanent scarring in patients’ lungs with symptoms such as breathing difficulties and chronic coughing.

This scarring cannot be cured, although some patients may have mild improvement if the exposure to hard-metal dust stops and they are treated with steroids.

When researchers tested the patient’s e-cigarette, a personal vaping device used with cannabis, they found cobalt in the vapour it released, as well as other toxic metals – nickel, aluminium, manganese, lead and chromium.

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This is the first known case where the disease has been linked to vaping. Pixabay

Previous research has also found these metals in vapour from other e-cigarettes and researchers say they believe the metals are coming from the heating coils found in vaping devices, rather than from any particular type of re-fill.

“Exposure to cobalt dust is extremely rare outside of a few specific industries. This is the first known case of a metal-induced toxicity in the lung that has followed from vaping and it has resulted in long-term, probably permanent, scarring of the patient’s lungs,” said Indian-origin reasearcher and study co-author Rupal Shah from the University of California.

“We think that only a rare subset of people exposed to cobalt will have this reaction, but the problem is that the inflammation caused by hard metal would not be apparent to people using e-cigarettes until the scarring has become irreversible, as it did with this patient,” Shah added.

“E-cigarettes are harmful, they cause nicotine addiction and can never substitute for evidence-based smoking cessation tools,” said Jorgen Vestbo, Professor at University of Manchester in UK.

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“The medical profession as well as the public should be concerned about a new wave of lung diseases caused by a product which is heavily promoted by the tobacco industry,” Vestbo said. (IANS)