Vaping, or using a special device to vaporize and inhale nicotine rather than smoking it, is a popular habit more than 10 million people share worldwide. Vaping is a relatively new development, with the most popular electronic cigarette devices entering the market in 2015. As such, scientists do not yet understand the potential long-term health risks of vaping. Today, however, reports of a potentially deadly lung illness affecting vape users in 36 different states are creating significant cause for concern.
What Researchers Know About the Vaping Illness
Federal organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are carefully tracking the recent outbreak of more than 380 confirmed cases of a mysterious lung illness. The CDC has confirmed that all 380 patients with the lung illness have a history of using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices. Many affected patients report vaporizing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but others say they vaped only nicotine. The CDC is currently investigating whether the vapes the patients used share a certain chemical or substance – especially one an e-cigarette company may have recently introduced.
Patients with the lung illness generally end up in hospitals with symptoms such as trouble breathing. Symptoms in serious cases can progress rapidly, especially if the patient has prior health problems. According to Chicago injury law firm Clifford Law, although the CDC has connected the lung illness with vaping, the exact cause remains unknown. There may be a new chemical e-cigarette companies are using to blame, or it may have something to do with vaporizing THC. Patients with the lung illness vary from healthy teenagers to seniors.
Reports of the mysterious lung illness began cropping up in August, but some patients have reported experiencing symptoms for as long as six months. Symptoms can include coughing, hacking, breathlessness, trouble breathing, wheezing and serious issues such as collapsed lungs. Most patients recover from the pulmonary illness within a few days or weeks, but some have not been as lucky. So far, the CDC has confirmed six deaths associated with the vaping lung illness. Patients in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon lost their lives from the vaping-related pulmonary problem.
Other Vaping Illnesses and Safety Risks
The deadly vaping illness is the latest in a string of health concerns, injuries and illnesses related to vaping and e-cigarette use. Physicians associate another serious lung illness, popcorn lung, with vaping as well. Certain vape flavors such as vanilla, almond and coconut often include diacetyl to complement the taste. Diacetyl is the same chemical popcorn companies used to achieve a buttery taste in microwave popcorn. These companies banned diacetyl, however, due to a lung problem many employees developed from breathing in the chemical: bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung.
Today, people are once again at risk of breathing in diacetyl, but not at popcorn companies – from vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Many users do not realize they are inhaling the same chemical that caused popcorn lung in thousands of victims years earlier. Furthermore, they are inhaling this chemical directly into their airways, posing a serious risk of irritating and scarring the air sacs in the lungs. Air sac scarring can permanently narrow the airway and lead to issues such as shortness of breath or coughing. Popcorn lung is a severe and irreversible health condition.
Another serious safety risk associated with vaping devices is exploding e-cigarettes. Defective lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarette devices can cause fires and explosions that may injure or kill unsuspecting users. E-cigarette battery explosions can cause traumatic limb amputations, serious burns, eye injuries, mouth injuries, lacerations and traumatic brain damage. Two victims, one in Texas and one in Illinois, died due to exploding e-cigarettes.
In light of the serious and potentially deadly health and safety effects related to vaping, the CDC is recommending consumers stay away from these devices altogether – at least until researchers know more about the latest lung illness impacting users.