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Two more vapers dead as health officials zero in on potential clues

9News Staff
Wed, 2 Oct

Virginia and New Jersey health officials in the US today each announced a confirmed vaping-related death, bringing the nationwide total to 16.

The Virginia death, an adult from the state’s southwest region, was initially reported by Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, on September 26.

The New Jersey death, an adult from the northern part of the state, was reported to its health department in August.

Fourteen other deaths have been identified nationwide as part of the multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping: two in California, two in Kansas, two in Oregon, and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nebraska.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that the agency is aware of 805 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use in 46 states and the US Virgin Islands.

A specific cause of the nationwide outbreak remains unknown, but health officials are zeroing in on potential clues – including the prevalence of THC-containing products among cases.

Australian warnings

Earlier this month, nine.com.au reported Australian health experts and academics have called on vaping companies to present their products and claims to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for proper scrutiny.

The main difference between the US and Australian vaping markets is that it is illegal to sell products which contain nicotine in Australia. However, flavoured e-liquids are readily available here.

Cancer Council Australia Tobacco Issues Committee Chair Libby Jardine told nine.com.au that in Australia, e-liquid and e-cigarette manufacturers had so far avoided subjecting their products to an acceptable level of public health scrutiny, despite commonly claiming they had the health benefit of helping people quit smoking.

Australia’s Department of Health have issued a vaping warning, pointing to concerns about the safety of the e-liquids.

“Liquids used in e-cigarettes (e-liquids), even when labelled ‘nicotine free’, can contain harmful and widely varying substances such as nicotine, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing chemicals,” the statement said.

Doctors are also being reminded to keep the potential dangers of vaping at front of mind.

In a memo to doctors, Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand president Bruce Thompson said clinicians should consider vaping as a possible cause of respiratory symptoms in patients and question them about the use of e-cigarettes.

Recent figures showed that about 10 per cent of adolescents in Australia and 19 per cent of 18-24-year-olds had tried an e-cigarette, according to the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change.

A study, published in the journal Thorax, found vapour may cause inflammation and impair the activity of alveolar macrophages, cells which remove potentially damaging dust particles, bacteria and allergens.

The researchers said some of the effects are similar to those seen in cigarette smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Many studies have focused on the chemical make-up of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped, the researchers said.

However, they developed a procedure to mimic vaping in the laboratory, testing the effect of e-cigarette vapour condensate on alveolar macrophages extracted from the lung tissue samples of eight non-smokers.

The condensate was found to be more harmful to the cells than plain e-cigarette fluid, and the effects worsened as the “dose” was increased.

The researchers said further work is needed to fully understand the effects of vapour exposure in humans.

With CNN, AAP

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