Vitamin E-derived chemical found in THC products focus of investigation into vaping illness, health officials say

CHICAGO -- Health officials in New York said their tests have found high levels of a chemical made from vitamin E in cannabis products linked to the outbreak of vaping illnesses.

A family in New Lenox, Illinois, whose daughter almost died from vaping now hope their story can keep other kids from getting hurt.

Doctors across the country are scrambling to get a better grasp on what's causing an increasing number of lung injuries that appear to be linked to vaping.

RELATED: Public health officials confirm first vaping-associated death in Los Angeles County

Hundreds of cases have popped up in the last few months. Doctors said they're still gathering data as many of the patients falling ill are teenagers.

The clouds of steamy vapor can smell and taste exactly like candy, which parents say is what lured their children in.

"Kids are literally playing chemist," said Ruby Johnson. "They're mixing flavors, liquids, pads on different devices. They don't even know what they're vaping by the time they actually do it."

Then her college-bound daughter could suddenly barely breathe. Piper went from the ER to the ICU in a matter of hours.

"She cried to her nurse, 'I can't take a deep breath. It feels like my lungs are on fire,'" Johnson said.

RELATED: Vaping damages lung tissue, causes immunity issues sans nicotine, THC, study says

And in an increasing number of vaping teens, doctors still don't quite know what to look for.

"The question they ask is, 'are you a smoker,' and the answer is no," Johnson said. "Doctors aren't asking, 'are you a vaper.' And that's scary because people are getting really sick."
"This is acute illness as opposed to what we typically see with tobacco smoke," said pulmonologist Dr. Mark Yoder.

At the end of August, the Centers for Disease Control reported hundreds of cases of vaping-related lung injuries in 25 different states. Several people have died - including one case in Los Angeles County. But doctors said the vaping chemicals are still a mystery, as are their effects on the lungs.

"The pattern that you're seeing on that one is called ground glass," Yoder said. "Sort of a hazy, ghost-like pattern."

RELATED: 2 Ventura County residents suffer lung injuries possibly linked to vaping

Health officials said the one common chemical they've been able to link to vaping related lung illnesses is a chemical in an oil derived from vitamin E.

The Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from sick patients across the country.

The vaping industry insists the illnesses are related to THC-based products, not ones that contain nicotine.
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