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CDC Says Potential Chemical Culprit in Vape-Related Deaths Identified

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U.S. is focusing on Vitamin E as cause of vaping lung injuries

"These findings do not rule out other possible compounds that may be causing lung injuries but help us better understand potential ingredients that may contribute to the cause of EVALI", Schuchat said during the Friday news briefing.

The CDC says it also tested for a range of other chemicals that might be involved, such as plant oils or mineral oils. The CDC said the lack of THC in five of those samples does not definitively indicate the patients didn't use the drug, because THC can be hard to detect in samples taken from lungs. "There may be more than one cause".

Investigators located vitamin E acetate-a new cutting agent in vape pens-in 29 of 29 lung fluid samples from patients in 10 states.

But this is the first time the oil has been detected directly in the lungs of patients in what's called bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples, which are extracted from the lining of the lung using a tube pushed in through the nose. Pirkle said it wouldn't be unusual for THC to be absent from some of the samples because it leaves the lungs faster.

THC or hints of it were detected in 82% of the BAC samples.

US health officials are reporting a breakthrough in their investigation into the cause of an outbreak of vaping illnesses. Now, with widespread bans in place in some states and a nationwide ban on flavored vape products on the horizon, it's clear that none of the legitimate products caught up in the hysteria had anything to do with the illness. "While no definitive cause has been found, as I've said from the very beginning: if you don't know what you are smoking, don't smoke it".

Numerous injured also reported using counterfeit or black-market products containing THC, notably those marketed as "Dank Vapes".

This oil is sometimes added to THC-containing products in high concentrations for "illicit" or "profit" purposes, such as to dilute the material, make it look nice or make it so that manufacturers of illegal products won't have to use as much THC or active ingredients, Schuchat added.

Vitamin E acetate can be found in skin products or in foods and doesn't cause harm when swallowed or applied as such, Schuchat said.

In the CDC analysis, THC was detected in 23 of 28 patient samples of lung cells, including from three patients who said they did not use THC products. In Illinois, she said, they had not had any cases associated with the state's medical marijuana program.

More than 2,000 people have been made ill from vaping in the last seven months, and questions have consistently arisen about whether a particular ingredient might be to blame - or whether the process of inhaling any type of vapor through an e-cigarette might be unsafe in itself. There have been 40 deaths tied to the outbreak, which is believed to have started earlier this year.

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