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Although it is a rare form of pneumonia typically only seen among industrial workers, researchers indicate that a case of hard metal lung disease has been linked to vaping.
In a case study published this month in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers from the University of California San Francisco indicate that there may be a link between regular use of e-cigarettes and a case of giant cell interstitial pneumonia, also known as hard metal pneumoconiosis, or simply cobalt lung.
The case report details an investigation into a 49-year-old woman who was at first believed part of a nationwide outbreak involving severe vaping lung injury, which has impacted more than 2,000 people nationwide. However, a closer examination has revealed that her case is different.
Doctors found that some of her damaged lung cells had grown larger and engulfed other cells, which is indicative of cobalt lung illnesses. Although that type of sickness is usually linked to exposure to hard metals, and thus usually is restricted to industrial factory workers, the patient worked as a dog walker.
Researchers decided to examine her vaping device, a ZenPen, to see if the illness could be explained.
“Analysis of the device’s e-liquid revealed significant levels of cobalt, supporting a diagnosis of giant cell interstitial pneumonia associated with inhaled cobalt from regular e-cigarette use,” the researchers noted.
The findings note that the ZenPen itself does not come with its own liquid nicotine, so the e-liquid was purchased elsewhere and not linked to the device. The liquid nicotine sample she provided also included nickel, aluminum, manganese, lead and chromium.
The report may raise even more concerns over the safety of vaping liquids and products, whose ingredients are not well known and whose formulations are not well studied.
Vaping Lung Illnesses
According to the most recent update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,300 vaping lung illnesses have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, impacting citizens nationwide. In addition, the CDC has confirmed nearly 50 vaping deaths due to lung complications.
The CDC’s investigation indicates the introduction of vitamin E oils into THC vaping products has aligned with the recent influx of vaping injuries and deaths across the nation. In 2018, the agency seized a limited number THC liquid products and did not identify any ingredients of vitamin E. However, the portion of THC liquids seized by the CDC thus far in 2019 has verified the vitamins presence in each illness case.
Lung illness from vaping was first reported by health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin in early August, after several cases of severe lung injury were identified, where e-cigarettes were the only common factor. However, since then, health officials nationwide have either identified similar cases, or realized they had treated similar cases without knowing about the e-cigarette connection.
In recent months, even beyond the lung injuries, there has been increased scrutiny of e-cigarettes, which have become the most popular form of nicotine among teens and young adults. In addition to the risk of e-cigarette respiratory illnesses, there is also now a new generation of teens addicted to JUUL, which contains high levels of nicotine and was aggressively marketed to individuals who were not prior cigarette smokers.
A growing number of JUUL injury lawsuits are now being pursued against the manufacturers, alleging that the products were illegally marketed to kids while failing to disclose that each of the e-cigarette pods contain more nicotine than a pack of tobacco cigarettes.