Michigan Health Dept. issues health advisory after chemical linked to lung injuries found in vaping devices

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) says it has confirmed an ingredient linked to deadly lung illnesses has been found in vaping devices in Michigan that have sickened multiple people. 

The MDHHS received results on multiple samples of vaping products sent to the FDA for testing. Patients were asked to provide any materials they had used for vaping. Here is what the FDA found in five tests: 

  • Two patients' products contained only nicotine.
  • One patient's products contained only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • One patient's products contained both THC and nicotine.
  • One patient's products contained THC and vitamin E acetate. One product, a Dank Vape Birthday Cake THC cartridge, contained 23 percent vitamin E acetate.

MDHHS says this is the first confirmation that a Michigan patient with lung injury was exposed to vitamin E acetate. The additive has been linked to several lung illnesses and even death.

The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E and, in September, the FDA found the oil was being used in cannabis products.

Additionally, two vaping cartridges submitted by a medical marijuana caregiver to a Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency licensed safety compliance facility also contained 40 percent or more of vitamin E acetate.

The cause of lung injuries is still not known, but the majority of lung injury patients report using products with THC. 

One theory being investigated is that contaminants in THC vapes, including vitamin E acetate, are related to the outbreak. The same chemical has been found in patients in New York and Utah. 

"We urge Michiganders not to use e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly those containing THC," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. "This outbreak is still under investigation, and the exact substance or devices that are causing the outbreak are unknown."

As of October 25, Michigan has 44 confirmed and probable lung injury cases - and one death. Of those 44 cases, roughly 81 percent reported using a product containing THC. 

To date, there have been more than 1,600 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping, according to the CDC, and there have been 34 deaths.

Based on the recommendations from the CDC, MDHHS is advising that persons stop using e-cigarette or vaping products that contain both THC and nicotine.

MDHHS also issues the following advisory:

  • E-cigarette and/or vaping products should never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.
  • Individuals who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette or vaping products.
  • Individuals should not buy any type of e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly those containing THC, off the street.
  • Individuals should not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments.
  • Adults who are vaping should not smoke combustible tobacco products as a replacement for nicotine.

E-cigarettes are not FDA approved as a smoking cessation device. Free help is available for individuals who are interested in quitting tobacco at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).