It is not clear if the popular e-cigarette brand Juul was found to have vitamin E in their products and numerous patients reported using both nicotine and THC vapes simultaneously.
In a telephone briefing on Friday, Dr. Anne Schuchet, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called Vitamin E acetate "a very strong culprit of concern" and referred to the discovery as "a breakthrough" in the investigation.
Although the substance was detected in all 29 of the lung samples, which came from patients in several different states, more testing is needed to establish a causal link between exposure and injury, Schuchet said, adding that "many substances are still under investigation".
An investigation into the link between vaping and severe lung illnesses has yielded the discovery of extremely high levels of the chemical vitamin E acetate in almost all cannabis-containing vaping products that were analyzed, NY health officials said Thursday. (When there wasn't enough liquid to run every analysis, labs prioritized tests for cannabinoids and vitamin E acetate.) Researchers also looked for other potentially harmful additives during the testing - such as plant oils - but didn't find notable levels of any in the patient samples.
"For the first time we have detected a potential toxin of concern, vitamin E acetate, in biologic samples from patients with lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products".
Almost 85 percent of lung injury patients in the nationwide outbreak have reported using products containing THC. As of November 5, there were 2,051 cases reported in 49 states, the District of Columbia and one US territory, the CDC said on Thursday, with 39 confirmed deaths.
Vitamin E acetate was discovered in the lung fluid samples of 29 patients from 10 states, according to the CDC.
There have been 2,051 confirmed and probable cases of the illnesses, dubbed EVALI, across 49 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But agency officials cautioned they can not rule out all other toxic substances, and it may take animal studies to clearly show vitamin E acetate causes the lung damage that's been seen. The CDC also tested the samples for other chemicals commonly found or added to THC products, like mineral oil, terpenes and more, but none were detected in the samples.
Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, with many saying they got them from friends or bought them on the black market.
Health officials continue to urge the public to avoid vaping and in particular, to avoid products that contain THC or that were purchased from informal sources. It usually does not cause harm when swallowed, but its effects when inhaled have not been extensively studied. But when it is heated and inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung function.