The health risks associated with smoking cigarettes are well-known, and in recent years, many people have switched to using e-cigarettes, which have been promoted as a safer option. However, recent events have shown that “vaping” may also be hazardous to one’s health. People across the United States have begun experiencing lung disease after using e-cigarettes, and as of September 26, 2019, more than 800 cases of lung injury have been reported, as well as 12 deaths. Due to this outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against using any vaping or e-cigarette products.
Potential Causes of Vaping-Related Lung Disease
So far, no exact cause of these lung injuries has been identified, and there is no single product or substance involved in every case. However, the injuries have occurred for users of both nicotine products and substances derived from marijuana, including CBD and THC. Some studies have identified multiple substances in e-cigarettes that may play a role in cases involving lung disease, including:
- Flavoring chemicals - E-cigarette liquids often come in flavored varieties. The chemicals used to provide flavoring, such as benzaldehyde or vanillin, can be toxic when they are vaporized and inhaled.
- Vitamin E acetate - This chemical has been present in may of the reported cases. While it is used safely in other products, such as nutritional supplements, it has oil-like properties that could cause damage to the lungs when inhaled.
- Nicotine - Vape products often have high levels of nicotine, which is a carcinogen. Officials have warned that nicotine in e-cigarettes could lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and seizures.
- Microscopic particles - The heating elements used in e-cigarettes may release metallic particles, which may become lodged in the lungs or absorbed into the bloodstream. This can cause damage to the lungs or heart.
It has also been suggested that even if the chemicals used in e-cigarettes are not inherently dangerous, inhalation of these chemicals in the form of vapor can be harmful. Vapor inhalation can cause inflammation of the lungs, resulting in the production of mucus and high levels of enzymes, which may lead to irreversible damage to lung tissue.