On the heels of three more deaths believed to be associated with electronic cigarettes, federal health officials have issued a warning urging consumers to avoid using the products while they conduct an investigation into the matter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday that over 450 users of these devices have now reported symptoms of severe pulmonary disease.
"CDC, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) use,” the CDC said.
“This investigation is ongoing and has not identified a cause, but all reported cases have a history of using e-cigarette products," the agency noted.
The illnesses have been reported from 33 states. With the addition of the three recent deaths, the number of deaths potentially linked with vaping has now risen to five.
Chemical link suspected
Towards the end of August, the CDC announced that it was launching an investigation in response to “a cluster of pulmonary illnesses” in multiple states. Patients who had confirmed that they used e-cigarettes reported symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and vomiting.
The agency said there is no evidence that an infectious disease is causing the illnesses, which has led officials to believe the illnesses may be associated with chemical exposure. On Friday, health officials suggested that the lung illnesses were linked to a chemical derived from vitamin E that is present in many different types of marijuana liquid vaping products.
All of the patients who have gotten sick have reported using e-cigarettes, but no specific substance or product was found to be linked to all the cases. However, many patients reported using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products (such as THC), the CDC said.
“These investigations are ongoing,” the agency wrote. “CDC will provide updates when more information is available.”
In the meantime, health officials have recommended that young adults, pregnant women, and non-smokers avoid using e-cigarettes and vaping products. Those who use e-cigarette products are urged not to buy them off the street, modify them, or add any substances to the products that are not intended by the manufacturer.