CDC identifies vitamin E acetate as possible chemical culprit in vaping illness outbreak

U.S. health officials reported a possible breakthrough Friday in their investigation into the cause of an outbreak of vaping illnesses in more than 2,000 Americans.

A government lab found the same chemical compound in lung fluid from 29 patients. The compound, vitamin E acetate, is an additive in some THC-containing products and was previously found in vaping fluid used by many of those who got sick.

But officials said Friday that this is more direct evidence that the chemical may be to blame.

“This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website. “These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs.”

Vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, but inhaling oil droplets can be harmful. It has recently been used as a thickener in vaping fluid, particularly in black market vape cartridges.

On Thursday, the CDC reported 39 vaping-related deaths across 24 states, and an additional 2,051 illnesses associated lung injury. All patients had reported a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products, and most cases involve a THC-containing product.

“The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak,” the CDC states on its website.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.