New evidence supports link between vaping illness and vitamin E acetate

New evidence strengthens the suspected link between vitamin E acetate and the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, according to a study published Dec. 20 in the New England Journal of Medicine and confirmed by the CDC.

Researchers tested lung fluids from 51 patients with EVALI — e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury — in 16 states, along with lung fluid samples from 99 healthy participants. The examination found vitamin E acetate, a chemical sometimes used as a thickening agent or additive, in 48 of the 51 EVALI samples. Vitamin E acetate was not found in any healthy patients' lung fluid.

While vitamin E acetate was not present in three lung injury samples, study authors noted that there is no formal test to diagnose EVALI and confirm those patients actually had the condition.The study also found THC in 40 of 47 EVALI patient samples.

Vitamin E acetate is commonly found in supplements and skin creams, but research suggests inhalation of the chemical can impair lung function. 

The CDC identified vitamin E acetate as the chemical potentially causing the string of vaping-related lung illnesses on Nov. 8, following lab testing that found vitamin E acetate in every sample of lung fluid collected from 29 EVALI patients.

Officials say it's too soon to rule out other culprits in the outbreak. 

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