In a new report, the CDC called vitamin E acetate a “very strong culprit” in the vaping crisis, noting it was found in fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients who had fallen ill. This year, at least 2,051 people have fallen ill because of vaping, while 39 people have died.
“For the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern, vitamin E acetate, from biological samples from patients,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. She added that the samples “provided evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury in the lungs.”
While the CDC’s new report singled out vitamin E acetate, the agency acknowledged that other chemicals or toxins could also be causing illnesses and respiratory issues. But while the CDC also tested for plant oils, petroleum distillates and other substances, they were “notably not detected.”
Vitamin E is regularly used in hand lotions and gummy vitamins, but it became a top suspect in the vaping crisis as illnesses and deaths ballooned this year. In September, for instance, the New York state department of health said that 10 out of 18 bootleg THC cartridges it had received from patients had tested positive for vitamin E.
While suppliers of vitamin E oil warn users against heating or inhaling the product, it proved to be a popular thickening and diluting agent in THC products, especially on the black market. Thomas Whitten, the lead consultant at the cannabis manufacturing consultancy firm, WeedRAR, told Rolling Stone, that THC oil is typically thin, meaning a consumer might see a runny product and “assume it’s less pure.” With the addition of Vitamin E, not only could black market providers dilute their product, but thicken it to “trick the customer into thinking their products are more pure than they are.”