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J Taylor, T Wiens, J Peterson, S Saravia, M Lunda, K Hanson, M Wogen, P D'Heilly, J Margetta, M Bye, C Cole, E Mumm, L Schwerzler, R Makhtal, R Danila, R Lynfield and S Holzbauer
Abstract
During August 9-October 31, 2019, 96 patients were classified as having e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH); other patients are being investigated for case classification and exposures. Among 58 patients interviewed, 53 (91%) reported obtaining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products from informal sources such as friends, family members, or in-person or online dealers. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS), the MDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) analyzed 46 THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from 12 EVALI patients for various potential toxicants, including vitamin E acetate, which has recently been detected in some THC-containing products and in samples of lung fluid from EVALI patients (1-4). To explore whether vitamin E acetate is a recently added component in THC-containing products, MDH tested ten products seized by law enforcement in 2018, before the EVALI outbreak, and 20 products seized in 2019, during the outbreak. Twenty-four products obtained from 11 EVALI patients from 2019 contained vitamin E acetate. Among the seized products tested by MDH, none seized in 2018 contained vitamin E acetate, although all tested THC-containing products seized in 2019 tested positive for vitamin E acetate. These chemical analyses of products obtained from EVALI patients and of products intended for the illicit market both before and during the outbreak support a potential role for vitamin E acetate in the EVALI outbreak; however, the number of products tested was small, and further research is needed to establish a causal link between exposure to inhaled vitamin E acetate and EVALI. Collaboration between public health jurisdictions and law enforcement to characterize THC-containing products circulating before the recognition of the EVALI outbreak and during the outbreak might provide valuable information about a dynamic market. These Minnesota findings highlight concerns about e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC acquired from informal sources. Because local supply chains and policy environments vary, CDC continues to recommend not using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC or any e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from informal sources. E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or pregnant women.* Until the relationship between inhaled vitamin E acetate and lung health is better characterized, vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
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