Health officials across the country are investigating a spate of mysterious lung illnesses, searching for a possible link between e-cigarettes and lung infections in more than 200 cases across 23 states, including Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is investigating six cases of lung infections in people between the ages of 19 and 39. Symptoms among the cases, all of which were diagnosed within the past 60 days, include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and vomiting. All have reported using e-cigarettes, including vaping marijuana.
"The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we want Michiganders to be aware using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous," MDHHS state epidemiologist arah Lyon-Callo said in a statement. "E-cigarettes/vaping products can contain harmful chemicals that can result in damage to a user’s lungs, heart or other body systems."
On Friday, officials at the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a man died from a vaping-related lung infection.
"This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products," CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. "Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms — including flavorings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products."
Vaping became mainstream a little more than a decade ago, marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes because it doesn't burn tobacco or cannabis. Instead, a battery heats the e-liquid, turning it into an aerosol, which is then inhaled.
However, last year, a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine report found that inhaling harmful chemicals from e-cigarettes can cause irreversible lung damage and disease.
So far, researchers have not linked the recent cases to any specific brand of device or e-liquid. Researching the matter is further complicated by the use of DIY "home brews" and "street vapes."
In Michigan, health officials are urging people to seek immediate medical help if they have used e-cigarettes and experience shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever, nausea, or vomiting.
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