From explosions that have caused death and property damage, a rise in teen addiction, seizures, and now a mysterious lung illness that has been linked to one death– vaping and e-cigarette use is becoming increasingly controversial.
For one family in Texas, vaping became the missing puzzle piece in their 17-year-old son’s unexplained pulmonary illness that put him on life support.
Tryston Zohfeld was hooked up to emergency medical tubes and a ventilator at one point during his hospital stay at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. He’d even been put into a medically induced coma for 10 days.
His lungs were completely blocked, according to x-rays. The doctors ran tests but it wasn’t pneumonia or a disease. They were completely flabbergasted at how the perfectly healthy teen was suddenly unable to breathe.
Dr. Karen Schultz, a specialist in pediatrics and pulmonology, told ABC affiliate WFAA, “We eliminated everything that we could possibly think of that could have caused it.”
Yet, Tryston had been vaping regularly since he was in 8th grade, sometimes two to three vape pods a week. It wasn’t until a family member revealed this valuable piece of information that everything started making sense.
Schultz theorizes the chemicals Tryston had been inhaling from the vape device caused his lungs to inflame so much they were unable to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen anymore. According to CBS, his habit had already scarred his lungs.
Tryston was released from the hospital after 18 days and immediately trashed his vape pens and e-cigarettes. “I was definitely given a second chance, and as soon as I woke up from that coma I knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
CDC, FDA, Health Agencies Want Answers
Though there isn’t a specific product that has been linked to pulmonary illnesses, health agencies across the country are boosting awareness of vape-related lung injury and asking healthcare providers to help them identify the root cause.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was investigating 153 cases of severe lung disease it believes are linked to vaping. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration plans to review 127 cases of seizures.
The CDC reports that as of August 14, 2019 there have been 30 cases of severe pulmonary disease reported to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
Symptoms of this include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
Symptoms were reported to have worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital. Many of the patients have acknowledged the use of THC in their vape cartridges but no specific product has been identified.
There have been reported illnesses in New York, California, Indiana, Utah, Indiana and Illinois. In August 2019, one person died from the result of respiratory issues due to vaping, which made it the first vape-related death in the United States.
Healthcare providers are urged to ask patients about their use of e-cigarette or vape products when they present respiratory or pulmonary illness– especially those that are unexplained. They are also urged to gather information about the vape device (juice, cartridges, brand, etc) and any illegal or legal drug use the patient may have participated in.
This helps the agencies narrow down any suspicious trends in a particular brand.
UPDATE: Aug. 17, 2019
The CDC issued a media statement that said the agency is investigating the cause of severe pulmonary illness. It stated ambiguity in determining the exact cause of the illness:
“There is no conclusive evidence that an infectious disease is causing the illnesses. While some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses.”
UPDATE: Aug. 27, 2019
The Food and Drug Administration issued an update on respiratory illness from e-cigarettes: “As of Aug. 27, 2019, 215 possible cases have been reported from 25 states, and additional reports of pulmonary illness are under investigation.”
The update solidified the recent trend in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) containing e-cigarette juices and products contributing to breathing difficulties in patients.
The FDA also said it’s received 80 samples of products and substances from various states that have sent them in to be analyzed. The contents of these samples will check whether or not they contain THC, nicotine, and other substances and/or chemicals and ingredients.
“FDA continues to gather information about the names of the products used, where the products were purchased, and how the products were used. That information is critical to help determine whether patterns emerge on which we can take additional action.”
Additionally, the FDA said it has not identified one particular brand or product responsible for contributing to respiratory illness in those who vape.
The CDC issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory that outlines safety precautions people can take. Those are:
- If you are concerned about these specific health risks, consider refraining from the use of e-cigarette products.
- Anyone who does use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids).
- Anyone should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
In regards to using e-cigarettes as a cigarette smoking cessation regimen, the FDA suggests that “adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications.”
If you’re concerned about unexpected e-cigarette health complications and/or product issues, the FDA encourages members of the public to submit a report to the agencies Safety Reporting Portal here.
UPDATE: Sept. 5, 2019
The FDA has linked a strong majority of vaping illness [and now three deaths] to a high concentration of vitamin E in many vaping cartridges that contained THC. The New York State Department of Health was able to identify the trend through an influx of cases stemming from the New York area.
“The FDA is analyzing samples submitted by the states for the presence of a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC and other cannabinoids along with cutting agents/diluents and other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons and toxins,” said Michael Felberbaum, senior FDA advisor.
For a detailed account of the update, click here.
Do you have an e-cigarette lawsuit?
If you have suffered property damage, injury, seizures, or suffered lung illness from e-cigarettes or vape devices, you should contact the lawyers at Johnson // Becker. You may be entitled to financial compensation by filing an e-cigarette lawsuit.
We offer a Free Case Evaluation and would be honored to speak with you.