Doctors believe they’ve discovered a new type of lung injury related to vaping after a teenager in Canada nearly died of something like “popcorn lung,” reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
The term “popcorn lung” comes from a condition first found in workers in a microwave popcorn factory who breathed in the flavoring used in the product.
Vaping-related injuries in the U.S. number more than 2,200 with 47 deaths.
This past spring, by the time the 17-year-old boy was admitted to an ICU in Ontario, Canada, what had started as a bad cough had developed into a life-threatening illness.
“He was on life support and we were concerned he might not survive,” said Dr. Karen Bosma of the London Health Sciences Centre in Canada.
Bosma, who treated the patient, says his lung images didn’t follow the usual pattern of vaping-related lung injury that has emerged in recent months.
“He had a diffuse pattern,” she said. “So if you picture the branches of a tree in the springtime when a tree is budding, that is what we are seeing on these images of the CT scan, and that’s a pattern that is in keeping with damage.”
Doctors diagnosed a type of lung injury known as bronchiolitis, also known as “popcorn worker’s lung.” Small airways in the lungs become so inflamed and obstructed that they cannot expel carbon dioxide, which can then build up to toxic levels.
This “popcorn lung” is different from the type of injury typically seen in vaping-related illness, where the damage occurs in the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, at the end of the airway.
New York State investigators are testing vaping devices to see which compounds may be causing the lung illness. The Centers for Disease Control has identified vitamin-E acetate as one culprit, but experts doubt that’s the only one.
The CDC says they are now looking at 215 possible cases across 25 states including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
“We will absolutely continue to look for everything,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “We have not said we found vitamin-E acetate. We will continue to analyze and tease apart whatever chemicals are in the samples.”
Meanwhile, the e-cigarette industry is pushing back against the total ban that’s being proposed at state, local and national levels.
They say that the vast majority of vaping injuries are linked to black market THC products.
They point out that in the U.K., where e-cigarettes are encouraged for smoking cessation, there have been no vaping-related deaths.