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There is now an official culprit that has been discovered in this ongoing search for answers surrounding the cause of illnesses and injuries related to the nationwide vaping crisis. The CDC claims that there is indeed concrete and reliable findings that vitamin E oil found in bootleg and black market THC vape products is responsible for at least part of the 2,000-plus serious vaping-related lung injuries. This study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this is a “breakthrough” in the investigation.

“For the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern: vitamin E acetate,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director, said in a phone call with reporters on Friday. Vitamin E acetate, an oil, is a synthetic form of vitamin E.

The CDC disclosed that its tests found vitamin E acetate in samples taken from 29 patients currently had vaping-related illness in 10 states. THC metabolites were detected in 23 of 28 patients. During the press briefing, CDC’s Dr. James Pirkle described vitamin E acetate as “enormously sticky” when it goes into the lungs, and it “does hang around.” Pirkle said it isn’t uncommon for THC to be nonexistent from some of the samples because it leaves the lungs faster. He added finding THC in 82% of the samples from 28 patients was considered “noteworthy.” 

“These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lung,” said Schuchat, adding the oil had previously been detected in product samples. In September, the New York State Department of Health said that lab tests showcased extremely high levels of vitamin E acetate in virtually all of the evaluated samples of products that contained cannabis.

Vitamin E can be found in many commonly used products, from food to supplements to skin care lotions, however there is no evidence that it causes harm when swallowed or applied to the skin. When inhaled it does appear to cause major problems in comparison.

Still, investigators say they cannot yet rule out other possible toxins or ingredients that may be causing the vape related illnesses. There may be multiple causes and potential sources, and the CDC says it will continue to test vaping aerosols.

So far, there have been 2,051 cases of vaping associated illnesses, reported in every state, except for Alaska, as of November 5. States have reported at least 40 deaths.