Vape Deaths: Researchers Find Causes


Rhiannon Webb

Doctors and researchers across the country have been trying to determine the cause of recent vape-related deaths.

On Aug. 23, the first vape-related death was reported in Illinois. Since then, approximately 1,300 cases have been reported in 49 states, and the numbers keep rising.

Researchers have concluded that certain toxic and deadly chemicals were causing respiratory failure and other problems for people using vapes. In addition, the vape cartridges and liquids used in e-cigarette devices were being laced with other chemicals and drugs. Users never knew exactly what was in their vape cartridges.

Rachel Rettner writes on the LiveScience website, “The majority of those affected by the outbreak are young people, with about 80% of cases occurring in people under age 35.” (The youngest victim was just 17.) She writes that officials believe THC products contain the most harmful substances, and the CDC suggests that the public refrain from using any e-cigarette or vaping devices.

Doctors and researchers believe that one of the main causes of death is from inhaling viscous oils within the vape “juice” and in the THC cartridges. Researchers found an oil called “vitamin E acetate” that could possibly be used as a thickening agent. The FDA reported that 47 percent of vape cartridges contained this oil, and they linked it to the cause of the recent deaths.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1,604 cases of lung injuries related to vape use have been reported to the CDC as of October 22, 2019. Thirty-four deaths have been confirmed in 24 states. The CDC has concluded that most of the injuries and deaths are related to THC products.

In a Washington Post article, Hannah Knowles reports that since 2018, the number of teens who use vapes and e-cigarettes has drastically increased and continues to rise. She expresses concern for teens being exposed to harmful contaminants in vape cartridges and how this will ultimately affect them. She writes, “More than one in nine high school seniors report vaping nicotine on a near-daily basis.”

While toxic contaminants and harmful oils used as thickening agents in cartridges are determined to be the cause of several vape-related deaths, another contributing factor is “wet lung.” Emma Sarran Webster, writing in Teen Vogue, reports that “a recent hospital case has revealed an entirely new risk associated with e-cigs.”

Wet Lung occurs specifically when matter is breathed into the lungs that causes a response called “hypersensitivity.” The lung tissue then becomes inflamed, which is known as “pneumonitis.” Symptoms include coughing, severe chest pains, and troubled breathing, as well as sudden fevers and joint pains.

Wet lung is a common allergic reaction to the inhalation of dust, fungus, mold, or toxic chemicals. Researchers have basically concluded that not only are toxic substances causing death and injuries, but the existence of mold and bacteria within unclean vape cartridges is causing wet lung in vape users, thus leading to harmful injuries and sudden deaths.

Overall, the CDC recommends that the public refrain from any vape use as they continue to study the situation.