How to Avoid the Vape Illness crisis

How to Avoid the Vape Illness crisis

We all want to have great sessions while also not jeopardizing our future.  There has never been more uncertainty than right now on how to accomplish that.  The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) levels are at an all-time high. And as expected – Politicians and agendas on the state and national are jumping headfirst into banning entire categories of “vaping” products without the full picture on which products are to blame.  

The issue becomes even more problematic because of the widespread use of “Umbrella terminology” relating to the vape industry.  Vape, Vapes, Vape Pens, Vaping, Vaporizers are all seemingly related and yet can apply to 1000’s of unique products such as: Electronic cigarette replacements with pre-filled cartridges, Safe desktop, and portable devices used to heat ground organic herbal material or concentrated Cannabis material, and an aromatherapy air freshener all, unfortunately, share similar namespace due to the common element of heating something to create a vapor. 

The Illness Crisis – what we know so far

As of October 17, a total of 1200+ lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette or liquid vape products have been reported to the CDC from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory. Thirty-one deaths have been confirmed in 22 states so far, and that number is expected to rise.  Until the last couple of months, Doctors have only been asking about tobacco and cigarette usage when asking about patient history. Now, medical professionals are on high alert and are now including questions about Vaping in their patient history information.

Counterfeit Vape cartridges
Pre-filled vape cartridges are popular, but potentially hazardous if not purchased from legal vendors.

Many of the sick patients said they bought liquid vape products containing THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, on the black market, officials and clinicians said.  

Currently, the CDC recommends that people should not buy “…e-cigarette or vape products with THC or CBD oils from informal sources (e.g. friends, family members) or “off the street,” and should not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

THC vape cartridges are among the most popular items in the legal and illicit markets, industry analysts said.

The Culprit(s)

THC oil vape cartridge
Bubbles are seen in a typical oil vape cartridge

Industry insiders point to recent changes in the ingredients used in popular liquid THC vape devices that could be making people sick. They say black market operators are using more thickening agents to dilute THC oil because of a crackdown by state authorities that have made the oil more scarce on the black market. THC oil is used to fill tiny disposable containers known as vape cartridges, which are heated to create inhalable vapor. 

THC concentrates are known to be thick and viscous when they are high potency. So when bootleg dealers dilute illicit products with various agents to maximize profits, those products are typically less viscous. Consumers can visually detect the viscosity of the product by turning the cartridge upside down. If a bubble goes from the top to the bottom quickly, it usually means that the product has been cut with something.  Dealers mask that visual test by adding a thickening agent, so the bubble doesn’t move from the top to bottom as fast, and consumers think they are getting a high-potency product.

The most common of which is the thickening agent: Vitamin E acetate. 

Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil, and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled, and officials said it could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. 

NBC News commissioned cannabis testing lab CannaSafe to test 18 THC cartridges from both legal dispensaries and unlicensed dealers.

The three cartridges purchased from legal dispensaries in California found no heavy metals, pesticides or Vitamin E acetate — a residual solvent, NBC News reported. However, 13 of the 15 cartridges from the black market did contain Vitamin E acetate.

In addition, CannaSafe tested 10 of the bootleg THC cartridges for pesticides, and all 10 tested positive, NBC News reported. Each contained myclobutanil, a fungicide that can turn into hydrogen cyanide when burned.

Dr. Melodi Pirzada, a pediatric pulmonologist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Long Island, New York, called the results “very disturbing.”  “(Myclobutanil is) going to cause a very toxic effect on the lungs,” she said. Pirzada noted that Vitamin E can also cause lung damage when inhaled.

In contrast, the experts at the Mayo clinic have begun to investigate and have published a brief on the “Pathology of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury” on the renowned New England Journal of Medicine.   They go on to state the presence of the Vitamin E acetate in initial injuries and tests “may simply be a marker of exposure and not necessarily a marker of toxicity. Although it is difficult to discount the potential role of lipid, we believe that the histologic changes instead suggest that vaping-associated lung injury represents a form of airway-centered chemical pneumonitis from one or more inhaled toxic substances rather than exogenous lipoid pneumonia as such, but the agents responsible remain unknown.”

Which leads us directly to another potential culprit.  The Vape or cartridge Hardware

In a newly released study, a Colorado lab points to this line of thought:  cheaply manufactured vapes and cartridges that use a solder that contains cadmium to fuse metals together.

“Cadmium-containing silver solder is less expensive than cadmium-free alternatives, and has improved flow properties which facilitate the joining of dissimilar metals found in vape pen electrical components,” the company says. However, it adds, a “serious form of metal fume fever occurs after inhalation of cadmium oxide fumes.”

Metal fume fever “is a condition in which the sufferer has influenza type symptoms—a raised temperature, chills, aches and pains, nausea, and dizziness,” says the Welding Institute, a research and technology organization specializing in welding. The institute adds that exposure to some metal fumes, such as cadmium, “can cause more serious illness or even death.”

Vape Pen solder points
Vape pen solder points and exposure opportunity on automatic vape pens

Colorado Green Lab has since posted an update to its study with some provocative and potentially damning results.  After cutting open many different cheap vape pens to inspect the internal structure and soldering, there is some initial evidence to avoid using cheap vape pens.  “Solvent metal leaching and short circuit (“heat”) is possible in many pens due to close proximity and size of solder points”.

What is being done about it?

No one product or substance has been conclusively identified as the cause of the lung injuries, the New York Post reported. However, testing is underway. The Food and Drug Administration is analyzing 80 samples received from patients, The New York Times reported but hasn’t yet made the results public.

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Monday he is ordering the state health department to issue subpoenas to three companies the department has identified as selling popular thickening substances linked to the mysterious vaping-related lung illnesses.

THC oil Thickener
One of the THC Oil Thickening agents made by subpoenaed company Floraplex

The companies being served with the subpoena are Honey Cut Labs in Santa Monica, Calif., for its Honey Cut Diluting Agent; Floraplex Terpenes in Ypsilanti, Mich., for its Uber Thick agent; and Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Mass., for its Pure Diluent.

Meanwhile in Boston Massachusetts, on September 24th, the Governor’s administration declared a public health emergency and implemented a four-month temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products to analyze reported cases of illness and consider the next steps.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has also directed officials to impose an emergency ban on flavored vaping products — both nicotine and those containing THC. The governor told the state Board of Health to vote on the ban the next time it meets: Oct. 9. He also said he would push legislation to make the prohibition permanent.

The FDA disclosed that it has launched a criminal investigation with the Drug Enforcement Administration. That is happening alongside the probe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into the cause of the illnesses. Federal officials are not pursuing individual vapers. But if the FDA determines “someone is manufacturing or distributing illicit, adulterated vaping products that caused illness and death for personal profit, we would consider that to be a criminal act,” said acting FDA Commissioner Norman “Ned” Sharpless.

 

The Solutions to avoid vape induced illness:

Do not use cheap vape pens

These cheap and or disposable vape pens that are linked to nearly everyone that is getting sick, are problematic and dangerous.  With many that have solder containing lead or cadmium exposed to your inhalation airflow and material, they present a clear and present danger to you.  Both by means of potentially toxic cadmium or lead fume inhalation, and by short circuits via leakage and exposed solder.   Buy a quality vaporizer device from a reliable manufacturer to stay safe!  All of our products here at Boundless Technology proudly only use solder that is cadmium and lead-free.

Avoid pre-filled cartridges

Even if Vitamin E acetate is not the direct cause of the illness crisis, it is alarming to know just how diluted and “cut” the pre-filled cartridges are when not purchased from a legal vendor or a regulated state.  Much like fast-food sells you “food-like products” that are heavily dosed in preservatives, sodium, and dyes – these pre-filled carts are being filled with a great quantity of liquid that is not the THC/CBD oil you want in an effort to dilute and deceive the customer.  If you insist on using cartridges, Fill your own!

Load your own material

Get your smoke sessions back to basics.   Ground cannabis flower, and trusted Marijuana concentrates are not in the news for a reason.  Do not settle for the fast-food equivalent of your favorite flower.  Grind your own herb and use a trusted dry-herb vaporizer.  Load your own dabs!  It tastes better anyway  👽

Comments (2)

Thank You for sharing this much-needed information.
Having suffered thru now my 5th lower-back surgery, I can unequivocally state (and have volunteered to testify before the FDA and Congress, if it would be of any value) to speak to the positive impact the use of marijuana has been in assisting to control the pain I must live with daily. When family members learned I was vaping, they immediately went into a panic, as my father died young from pancreatic cancer (and, in fact, all my grandparents and their siblings all died from cancer of some form). I’ve tried to reassure them that this latest anti-legalization hype is just that… one bit of data being dramatized and taken completely out-of-context in an effort by Big Pharma to prevent the movement to legalize.

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