Vaping illnesses caused by chemical fumes, study suggests

Vaping-related lung injuries resemble injuries from exposure to toxic substances or chemical spills, according to research published Oct. 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine

For the study, researchers from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic reviewed lung biopsies from 17 patients who had a history of vaping and suspected vaping-related lung injury. Seventy-one percent reported using vaping products containing THC. The patients were mostly men ages 19-67, and the vaping-related illnesses appeared in 2019 for all but two patients. 

All patients had acute lung injury — including pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs — and damaged airways and tissue. 

None of the cases provided evidence of lung injury due to the inhalation of fats, a theory researchers were recently exploring. 

Researchers said they believe vaping-related lung injury represents a form of chemical pneumonitis due to the inhalation of toxic substances, but emphasize the need for more data. The specific chemicals that may be responsible for the lung injury are still unknown.

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