Vitamin E under investigation in vaping-induced lung illnesses

Posted Sep 6, 2019 by Karen Graham
Federal and state officials investigating the mysterious eruption of lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use have turned up a vitamin in vape products that is normally found in supplements and skin creams.
Laboratory test results show very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing...
Laboratory test results show very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analyzed by New York State’s Wadsworth Laboratory.
New York Department of Health
The New York Health Department has found vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing vape products. The announcement follows a joint statement made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA last week that they are investigating 215 cases of vaping-related illnesses across 25 states, reports CNBC News.
Vitamin E acetate is a common vitamin supplement commonly used in skincare products based on (largely unproven) health claims about vitamin E’s antioxidant effects. It is also added to all kinds of feed and pet food.
New York Health Department laboratories found "very high levels" of Vitamin E acetate in nearly all the cannabis vaping liquids that were tested. Vaping liquids containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, have been the prime suspects in the investigation of vaping illnesses since early on.
Vitamin E supplements
Vitamin E supplements
John Liu, courtesy Oregon State University
“At least one vitamin E acetate containing vape product has been linked to each patient who submitted a product for testing,” the NY Health department said in a statement, reports ArsTechnica. Many of the products were counterfeits, the department added, which have been another element thought key to the illnesses.
The Health Department also noted that physicians in the state reported 34 cases of respiratory illnesses linked to vaping cannabis-containing liquids. None of the nicotine-based vaping products tested contained Vitamin E acetate.
So, the finding of Vitamin E acetate has led to speculation that either the oily vitamin or perhaps a toxic derivative created when the vitamin is vaporized - could coat the lungs - damaging cells in the respiratory tract and causing the illnesses and even deaths seen recently.
An e-cigarette
An e-cigarette
Christopher Cornelius (CC BY 2.0)
The FDA has been testing cannabis-based vaping products and has also found Vitamin E acetate in the samples tested, but the FDA isn't convinced Vitamin E acetate is the culprit behind the illnesses.
"More information is needed to better understand whether there's a relationship between any specific products or substances and the reported illnesses," FDA senior adviser Michael Felberbaum says in an emailed statement Thursday, reports
"The number of samples we have received continues to increase and we now have over 100 samples for testing," Felberbaum says. "The FDA is analyzing samples submitted by the states for the presence of a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC and other cannabinoids along with cutting agents/diluents and other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons and toxins. No one substance, including Vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all of the samples."
Oregon officials on Wednesday reported that a middle-aged adult who died of a severe pulmonary illness in late July had used a cannabis product purchased from one of Oregon's state-regulated marijuana stores. That case is under investigation. The death of a second person was reported in Illinois in late August.