Finally, there is a possible answer to the question: What in flavored vapes has killed 40 people across the country? According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control, fluid samples acquired from 29 patients who had fallen ill with a mysterious lung illness all had traces of Vitamin E in their lungs. As a result of these findings, Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board has called for a voluntary ban on all marijuana vaporizer cartridges that contain vitamin E acetate. It is unknown if any legal marijuana processors have used the additive in any cartridges.
Last month, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order asking that the State Board of Health use emergency rules to ban all flavored vape products regardless if it contains THC or nicotine. The ban was put in place on Oct. 10 and is supposed to last 120 days while the LCB gathers information on which ingredients are causing the illness.
The recent CDC report came out on Nov. 8, and it gives credence to the theory that Vitamin E is likely a primary cause for the mysterious lung illness that has made 2,051 people sick and killed 40. This is the first reported identification of potential toxin that could be causing this illness. However, the report does state that more research is needed in order to come to a complete conclusion. 86 percent of the subjects in the report said that they had used a THC vape pen within three months of falling ill. Very few of these cases came from legal THC cartridges acquired from a dispensary.
Vitamin E acetate or tocopheryl acetate is a synthetic version of vitamin E that is used as an additive in food to boost antioxidant intake and in cosmetics as a moisturizing agent and UV protection. These industries never thought of using Vitamin E in inhalants beyond minute accidental consumption, so there is very little information on the toxicity data for inhaled vitamin E. All tocopherols however can disrupt the function of the lining on the lungs in different ways depending on what form it is consumed.
When Vitamin E acetate enter your lungs, it creates a domino effect in your system that can lead to death. Vitamin E acetate adheres to the lining which is called lung surfactant. The lung surfactant allows oxygen to transfer into the body. When Vitamin E Acetate sticks to your lungs, it blocks oxygen from transferring which kills lung cells and can cause an immune system reaction that is similar to hypersensitivity pneumonitis (an allergic reaction to inhaled dust, fungus, molds or chemicals).
According to Leafly, tocopherols first appeared in cartridges on the black market in Los Angeles in late 2018 in a product called honey cut. Honey cut became popular as a THC oil cutting substance. After that, multiple knock off versions popped up and spread their use to illicit markets across the whole country.
While there has been a correlation found in THC vape pens, there has been no conclusive evidence that nicotine vape juice is to blame.