Experts pinpoint likely culprit behind vaping illness that's sickened thousands
Health officials believe they've identified vitamin E acetate as the likely culprit behind a vaping-linked lung injury epidemic that has killed 39 people and sickened thousands in America.
Investigators have previously pointed to the oil, which is sometimes used as a thickening agent for vaping products that contain a psychoactive substance called THC, as a possible cause of the outbreak.
But they are more certain now after it was detected in all 29 patients selected for a lung fluid study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate as the primary site of injury within the lungs," said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director, calling it a "very strong culprit of concern" and describing the new work as a breakthrough.
"No other potential toxins were detected in the testing conducted so far," she added.
Vitamin E acetate is found in many foods and is also used in cosmetics products like skin cream, but interferes with lung function when inhaled.
A CDC release added that more investigation was required to definitively confirm a causal link and that it remained possible more than one toxin was responsible for the current outbreak, which officials have called "e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury" or "EVALI."