One of the most controversial hobbies has become an extreme health hazard – vaping. Gaining popularity within the last few years as a marketed “safer” alternative to smoking, vaping has become infamous as its own addictive vice. Within the last few months, a deadly new lung disease has begun to appear in vape users – one that has over 1,400 cases reported so far – and taken 33 lives.
While the disease is still new and still being researched, all of the victims reported frequent use of both THC and nicotine vape products. The ingredients used in vape cartridges lack regulative attention, which lead to the flourishing industry growing bigger than ever in recent years. Cartridges made from trusted companies do not usually list ingredients on the package, and street cartridges never do.
As scientists begin to further study the chemical compositions of cartridges, they are finding all kinds of dangers in formulas. Substances that seem safe for other uses become toxic to lungs when heated through a vaporizer.
Propylene glycol, an ingredient used in fog machines has been used as a substance to water down THC cartridges while giving it a believable foggy effect. While this sounds like something a drug dealer may do to increase their personal profit, this practice has found itself on the shelves of some of the most trusted dispensaries.
Another harmful chemical has been Vitamin E acetate, which is the most likely major suspect in the epidemic. While it is safe for skin (often used in makeup and skincare products) and even ingestible, when vaped, leads to lipoid pneumonia when the acetate’s fat particles coat the lungs. Vitamin E acetate is the most common thickening agent used in THC vapes, from homemade to leading industry cartridges, it almost always shows up positive when tested for.
Vitamin E is commonly derived from certain vegetable oils such as corn, but is also synthetically created from petroleum. As it was deemed safe for many other uses, it was not immediately suspected as a prominent danger until recently, when deceased user’s autopsies showed their lungs had failed due to built up layers. The first biopsies showed caustic chemical burn-like injuries in the lung’s airways and surrounding tissues, which Doctors say is unlike anything that has ever been seen before and unlike any cannabis or nicotine related injuries.
Many leading cannabis industries have been aware of the lack of safety in their products, but the lack of regulation has become a convenient loophole for them. The ingredients used can be marketed as “all natural” and safe, which can be true, however testing the formula’s safety while in liquid form is much different than testing how the vapor effects the inside of a user’s lungs. Since the portable vaporizer’s first birth, they’ve been marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. That has been the notion for so long until recently, as we find that vaping brings its own dangers to the table.
As concern continues to grow, and industries panic, many public places have began implementing “no vaping” rules, vapes being added to the list of discouraged substances along with cigarettes and alcohol. Cities in 13 states and 2 US territories have placed bans on their own, but nothing federal has been put enforced yet.