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EVALI stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. Simply put, it’s a condition people get when vaping injures their lungs.

The news has been filled with updates on vaping-related illnesses. Use of e-cigarettes, commonly referred to as vaping, uses a cartridge of liquid that is heated through the electronics in the pen to produce vapor that enters the lungs. Unfortunately, many ingredients that are considered safe to consume are no longer safe when they are heated to such temperatures.

The CDC identified EVALI as early as June 2019. However, most people weren’t aware of EVALI until October 2019. 

There have been more than 2,500 cases of EVALI and 50 deaths reported in the U.S. since December 17, 2019. Diagnosis of this condition peaked in September 2019 and has been slowly falling since then. Since discovering this condition, scientists and medical professionals have since learned more about the condition and probable cause.

What Causes EVALI?

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study on liquid samples collected from the lungs of 51 patients with EVALI and 99 healthy people. Researchers processed the samples, searching for several contaminants. 

The liquid samples revealed vitamin E acetate in 48 of 51 patients with EVALI, but none in the healthy group. That, among other findings, lead the CDC to closely associate vitamin E acetate with EVALI.

Vitamin E acetate is much like it sounds: a form of vitamin E. When used in skin products, a helpful antioxidant used to reduce scarring or soften skin. Vitamin E acetate is used to dilute or thicken vape liquid. As an oily, sticky substance, it clogs the delicate tissues in the lungs when inhaled.

There was also a focus on black market cannabis or THC containing products because many were found to use vitamin E acetate. On the other hand, many legally produced cannabis products also use the inexpensive and potentially harmful compound.

That being said, the CDC is still investigating the causes of EVALI. They can’t yet say for sure that vitamin E acetate is the only chemical causing lung issues, and data is still being collected.

Who Gets EVALI?

With the connection to vitamin E acetate and THC containing products, it may seem that if a person doesn’t use THC products, that person would be safe. That doesn’t appear to be the case. As many as 5% of hospitalized EVALI patients vaped a product that didn’t contain any THC, nicotine or CBD. 

That’s a small sample of the patients the CDC has collected data from as of December 3, 2019, but it does appear to mean that no vaping product is completely safe. Below are some more common patient attributes from the same data set.

EVALI patients who have been hospitalized 

  • Were often young — 78% were younger than 35, but ages ranged from 13 to 77
  • Were more likely to be male — 67% were men
  • Were likely to have smoked a product containing THC — 80% vaped THC and 35% only used THC products 3 months before onset
  • Were likely to have used nicotine products — 54% reported using nicotine and 13% exclusively used nicotine products 3 months before onset

The data shows a rather diverse set of patients, especially when it comes to age. That’s also true when it comes to mortality of EVALI patients. The median age of people who have died from the condition was 52, but the ages ranged from 17 to 75. 

While we’re still searching for answers about this devastating disease, the safest course of action for people who vape is to seek assistance to quit vaping.

Treatment for Chronic Lung Conditions

Lung Health Institute exclusively treats people with chronic lung conditions. We offer specialized treatments for chronic lung disease: cellular therapy. Our treatment uses your body’s own cells to reduce inflammation within the lungs. Breathing easier and slowing the progression of your condition is the goal of our treatment. At 3 months following cellular therapy, 91.6% of our patients report a positive outcome.* There is hope for patients with chronic lung conditions. 

Take the next step to Breathe Easier™. Contact a Lung Health Institute patient coordinator today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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