At least 42 people have died as a result of vaping-related illness as health officials upped the number of confirmed and probable lung injury cases to 2,172. As of Nov. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the fatalities have occurred across 24 states, with every state except for Alaska reporting illnesses in their residents.
The update comes days after the health agency named vitamin E acetate, which is found in THC-containing vape products, as the possible culprit in the outbreak. The CDC said the chemical compound, which is typically used as a nutritional supplement and is derived from vitamin E, was found in lung fluid from 29 patients tested in a government lab.
Though vitamin E acetate is not known to cause harm when it’s ingested or applied to skin, the same may not be true in connection to the lung illnesses.
“This is the first reported identification of a potential toxicant of concern (vitamin E acetate) in biologic specimens obtained from EVALI patients,” the CDC said in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released on Nov. 8. “These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury among EVALI patients and are consistent with FDA product testing and media reports of state public health laboratory testing documenting vitamin E acetate in product samples used by EVALI patients.”
Also this week, surgeons at the Henry Ford Hospital said they performed a double lung transplant on a 17-year-old with a history of vaping. The then-16-year-old had gone to the hospital for a suspected case of pneumonia, and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who then contacted Henry Ford Hospital to arrange for a transplant.
Without the transplant, Dr. Nicholas Yeldo, an anesthesiologist at the hospital who was involved in the case, said the “young patient would have died, there is no doubt about it.”
The outbreak of illnesses has prompted as many as 18 states to pass age requirements in purchasing e-cigarettes and tobacco products, with New York’s going into effect on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had signed the law over the summer and has officially raised the age to purchase such products from 18 to 21 in an effort to curb teen smoking and vaping in the state.
Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this report.