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Lung damage

The Center for Disease Control Friday released the first report analyzing the vape-related lung injury that has recently claimed 39 lives in the United States.

The CDC describes the outbreak as “unprecedented.” The CDC refers to the lung disease as EVALI — e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury.

In addition to the 39 deaths, 2,051 cases of EVALI have been reported in the U.S., in every state except Alaska, this information was updated Nov. 5.

A man from Washington State died in a suspected vape-related incident in Klamath Falls on Oct. 30, and relatives say he purchased the vape product he was using in Klamath Falls. The investigation into the death is still ongoing.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, there have been nine documented vaping injuries in Oregon as well as two deaths.

For the first time, the CDC has documented a common factor.

“Recent CDC laboratory testing of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (or samples of fluid collected from the lungs) from 29 patients with EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the BAL fluid samples,” the CDC website states.

“Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries.”

The CDC recommends everyone not to use e-cigarette or vaping products that contain THC and not to get vaping products from unofficial sources.

The CDC reports that most victims of EVALI used THC (marijuana) vape products.

Furthermore, the CDC recommends everyone consider refraining from all vaping products while the outbreak investigation continues.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown banned the sale of flavored vape products via executive order, an order that has since been blocked for nicotine-based vape by Oregon courts.

Local businesses interviewed by H&N said the ban did not affect business too much.

“Our business has not been negatively affected by the vape ban set forth for our state. We acquire all of our products from compliant, licensed producers, processors and wholesalers that are required to pass very stringent testing requirements,” said Klamath Falls Emerald Triangle manager, Teresa Bailey.

“We are still able to provide many vaporizer options that consist of 100% cannabis oil and do not contain any of the additives that encompass the temporary ban in place,” Bailey said.

“The loss of the products that had flavorings may have had a small impact for those that used those, but those were new to us anyway. We never had those under medical only, so we didn’t have a lot of regulars who bought those,” said Edward Medina, owner of A Better Way Medicinal Alternatives.

“Overall, I would say that maybe 10% to 20% of people who vaped have switched to other forms of ingestion. Most of those people simply went back to using pure cannabis flower. Never has there been a reported death from using raw cannabis,” Medina said.

Medina has a bachelor’s degree in biology and health science and a doctorate in physical therapy. He became a firm believer in the positive effects of medical marijuana and has been an outspoken advocate for it in Klamath Falls.

Medina expressed his desire for the public to understand the full background of the issue at hand with vape products.

“We have sold cannabis vaping products for nearly six years locally and legally. We have not had one single instance of a problem related to that. Or with any products that we sell for that matter,” Medina said.

He said vape products have been available for a decade, and this sudden acute illness seems to point to an issue with a particular ingredient or product, not the practice as a whole.

“If vaping in general is the cause, why did it just start happening this year? There is a problem with that line of thought,” Medina said.

Medina said he is dedicated to making sure that any products that are proven to be dangerous are not sold at his store.

“If anyone is concerned, remember that inhaling any foreign substance into our lungs is dangerous, including smoke from forest fires and campfires every year. If you are concerned, stop vaping. I prefer to wait for a clear answer, personally,” he said.

Sarah Fitzpatrick, Program Director of Respiratory Care at OIT, had a different point of view on the issue.

“Bottom line is you probably shouldn’t do any of it,” she said.

It is a common belief that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking, a belief that Fitzpatrick warned against.

“I don’t think enough time has gone by to say that they are better in the long run because we just we haven’t had the long run yet,” she said.

“Inhaling or smoking anything, in general, is not good for the health of your lungs, whether it’s acute or chronic. As far as the vaping goes, what I know is, whatever substance is being vaped is not FDA approved. And so they don’t really know exactly what’s in it,” she said.