Health officials find more evidence linking vitamin E oil to vaping illness

Federal health officials on Friday said they have even more evidence that vitamin E acetate is one of the main causes of a mysterious lung illness that has affected more than 2,500 people and resulted in 54 deaths. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vitamin E acetate was found in the lungs of 48 of 51 patients who either were sick or died from lung injuries. The vast majority used products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Vitamin E was not found in the lung fluids of a control group of healthy people, or people who exclusively smoked cigarettes, vaped nicotine exclusively, or did not smoke at all.


The newest findings strengthen the link previous CDC and Food and Drug Administration investigations found between vitamin E acetate and the vaping-related lung disease.

Last month, the CDC initially zeroed in on vitamin E acetate as a main cause of the lung injury, after the chemical was found in the lungs of 29 patients across 10 different states. CDC officials called the findings a “breakthrough.”

Officials said cases of the illness have dropped from their peak in September, but remain higher than when the outbreak began in June. 

In addition, data published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that the addition of vitamin E acetate to THC-products aligns with the timing of the outbreak.

The additive first began to appear in the illicit market in late 2018 or early 2019, and gained popularity in 2019.

For example, in Minnesota, 10 of 10 products seized by law enforcement during 2018, before the outbreak, did not contain vitamin E acetate. But in September 2019 at the peak of the outbreak, 20 out of 20 THC-containing products seized by law enforcement contained vitamin E acetate.

Vitamin E acetate is commonly used as a dietary supplement and in skin creams. However, once heated in an e-cigarette and inhaled, it “could cause respiratory dysfunction.”

CDC officials are continuing to warn the public that there may be more than one cause of the disease, so the best way for people to ensure that they are not at risk is to consider refraining from the use of all vaping products.

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