At The Medical Center at Bowling Green, pulmonologist Dr. Karan Singh has treated two illnesses related to vaping.
Both cases were people in their 30s, both of them vaped CBD oil and both of them were otherwise healthy.
“We’re dealing with something new here,” Singh said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated a recent report to reflect a total of 380 cases of lung illness reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory – and six deaths reported from six states.
These individuals had a history of electronic cigarette product use or vaping – with many patients reporting that they used solely THC products, others using THC and nicotine and some using solely nicotine.
The CDC investigation has not determined a specific cause.
“There has been a sudden epidemic of young kids coming in ending up on a breathing machine,” Singh said. “We don’t really know why all of this is happening.”
There are several theories in the medical community: a new ingredient introduced in the illegal market, CBD oil, oils used in vaping products, a type of nitrate preservative used in vaping products or chemicals related to the often-dense vape clouds, according to Singh.
With CBD oil, biopsies of vaping-related lung injuries have indicated allergic and inflammatory reactions. “The body treats it as a foreign thing, and the lungs become massively inflamed,” Singh said.
He suggested there’s worth in using a “common-sense test,” recognizing that exhaling thick clouds of chemicals cannot be good for your lungs.
“Apart from air, there is nothing safe to put in your lungs,” Singh said.
Both of Singh’s patients exhibited a classic presentation: “people with symptoms that don’t have a reason to be sick,” Singh said, such as a cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills and other abnormalities.
He ordered a bronchoscopy, obtained a biopsy and took an X-ray of the lungs, which appeared gray and white instead of purely black.
But the ailments were mild and addressed early enough to be treated with medications.
“They’ve made a full recovery,” he said.
With CBD oil, there isn’t a physical withdrawal with the product, unlike alcohol, tobacco or opioids.
So people can easily quit CBD oil.
That’s not the case with nicotine-delivering e-cigarettes – an alarming number of children and adults have been becoming addicted to nicotine, and “nicotine is the hardest thing to quit,” Singh said.
At this stage, the public information of vaping-related injuries remains limited.
“It’s like a public health experiment,” Singh said. “We’ll know in 15 years.”
The official CDC recommendation is to avoid vaping or using e-cigarette products. If an individual switched to vaping to quit cigarettes, the CDC warns that the individual should not return to smoking cigarettes.
The CDC also warns consumers not to purchase street cannabis or e-cigarette products and to stop modifying devices to vape adulterated substances.
And if an individual has been vaping or using e-cigarette products and experiences symptoms, they should seek out a health provider.