The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released findings this week providing “direct evidence” that vitamin E acetate found in illicit THC products is playing a significant role in the outbreak of vaping injuries.
The MDH’s findings were released in a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which tested 29 bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples from patients with vaping lung injuries across 10 states. Five of the samples were from patients in Minnesota.
“A potential toxin, vitamin E acetate, was found in all BAL fluid samples tested by CDC. These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury in the lungs, although more research is needed to establish whether vitamin E acetate caused the injuries,” the MDH said in a press release.
Additionally, MDH’s Public Health Laboratory examined illicit THC products from 12 confirmed or probable lung-injury patients. Testing confirmed that 11 of the 12 lung injury patients vaped THC products that contained vitamin E acetate while the 12th patient vaped multiple products.
“Overall, 52 percent of 46 illicit THC products belonging to the 12 lung injury patients that were tested at the MDH Public Health Laboratory contained vitamin E acetate,” said the press release.
“These are small samples, and the findings do not rule out other possible compounds or ingredients that may be involved in causing these lung injuries,” said MDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “However, these results are important and support a role for vitamin E acetate in the lung injuries associated with vaping THC.”
The MDH also found that all 20 of the THC products seized by law enforcement in 2019 contained vitamin E acetate, but no vitamin E acetate was found in the five vaping cartridges from 2018.
As of November 26, 125 patients in Minnesota with confirmed or probable lung injuries associated with vaping have been reported to MDH and 91 percent have reported vaping illicit THC products.
Three Minnesotans have died from complications associated with vaping lung injuries.
“Thanks to the work of CDC, local law enforcement and MDH’s lab and epidemiologists, we now have evidence of vitamin E acetate in the lungs of Minnesotans and in illicit THC products from Minnesota during the outbreak,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We have more work ahead, but every bit of evidence gets us closer to a resolution.”
The Minnesota House DFL Caucus announced several policy initiatives in late October aimed at stopping the “epidemic of youth vaping in Minnesota.” These proposals include raising the legal sales age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21, prohibiting the sales of all flavored tobacco products (including menthol), raising taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and prohibiting online sales of all tobacco products.
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