The CDC has released new data which almost definitively confirm that the respiratory disease outbreak was caused by vitamin E acetate oil in THC vaping products (and perhaps some CBD vaping products as well).
I came to the same conclusion on August 25th, as did many experts from the cannabis industry who helped to inform my conclusion. Why it took the CDC four additional months of intensive investigation to discover something that cannabis industry experts had recognized much earlier is mystifying.
Previously, CDC had tested lung fluids from 29 of the case patients. All 29 contained vitamin E acetate. This past Thursday, CDC reported the results of testing of 51 probable or confirmed case patients from 16 states. Vitamin E acetate was detected in 48 (94%) of the case patients.
Importantly, the three cases in which vitamin E acetate was not detected were not confirmed cases, and each had other potential explanations for their illnesses. One had a multi-drug overdose, one had a fungal infection, and one may have had a bacterial lung infection.
The most critical finding of the study was that 9 out of 11 patients who denied having used THC were found to have THC in their lung fluids.
Overall, every single confirmed case patient (100%) had vitamin E acetate detected in their lung fluids.
The investigators tested lung fluids from 99 healthy people, including 18 e-cigarette users, and none had vitamin E acetate detected. In addition, they did not find vitamin E acetate in any of the nicotine-containing e-liquids tested.
The Rest of the Story
These new data should pretty much put to rest the story that many state health departments and anti-nicotine groups have been telling for the past several months: that traditional e-cigarettes are causing severe lung injury and that getting these products off the market is necessary as an emergency response to the vaping-associated lung illness outbreak.
On the contrary, the actions that would have been helpful in stemming the tide of this outbreak more quickly were: (1) explicitly warning the public about the dangers of vaping THC, especially black market products; and (2) taking steps to identify and dismantle the production and distribution channels that were disseminating the dangerous products.
The federal agencies that appear to have done their job properly are the FDA and DEA, which have been investigating the distribution channels for black market THC vaping products and have closed down 44 web sites that were illegally selling THC vape carts. In contrast, CDC has done everything in its power to hide the truth from the public and to continually invoke electronic cigarettes as being involved in the outbreak. The very name that the CDC gave to the outbreak was a complete misnomer: "e-cigarette, or vaping-associated lung illness."
While a few state health departments responded appropriately, most have been using the outbreak as an excuse to further demonize e-cigarettes, while downplaying the role of marijuana vaping and of black market THC vaping products. These actions have almost certainly resulted in more cases of the illness than would have occurred if these health agencies had simply told the public the truth and not allowed their bias against electronic cigarettes to have gotten in the way.