Popcorn Lung From Vaping: Should You Freak Out?

Henrietta Brewer
November 22, 2019

A Canadian teen developed a unsafe vaping illness that doesn't look like lung illnesses seen in patients across the U.S. Instead, it resembles the kind of lung damage workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed years ago from breathing in a buttery flavoring.

"Popcorn lung" symptoms were found this spring in a 17-year old boy admitted into the ICU with a history of vaping both THC and nicotine e-cigarettes, doctors reported Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The 17-year-old, from Ontario, Canada, was taken to hospital last year with a severe cough, fever and shortness of breath. Following that transfer, he received additional care, was weaned from ECMO and a ventilator, saw improvements in his health and then was discharged home after a total 47 days in the hospital. As Heather Yourex-West explains, doctors say the severity of this case should serve as a wakeup call.

The condition gets it name from years ago when factory workers manufacturing microwave popcorn inhaled the ingredient diacetyl in the butter that causes the condition, and they got sick.

The USCDC in August issued an advisory, cautioning the public against the purchase and use of vaping ingredients from the street and to stop modifying either nicotine or cannabis e-cigarette in an effort to curb the reportedly rising cases of vaping-related sicknesses in 25 US states.

"We know that vaping is often seen in a younger population", said Dr. Simon Landman, a physician at the London Health Sciences Centre who was involved in the teen's care.

While many of these flavours are listed as "generally recognized as safe" under the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it is important to recognize that this applies to ingestion of these ingredients; aerosolization of flavours safe for swallowing may produce adverse health effects when inhaled into the lungs.

After ruling out other potential causes, we suspected the patient had bronchiolitis obliterans.

"Because our patient wasn't getting better on life support and he actually needed two forms of life support we actually ended up referring him to Toronto, which is our regional lung transplant centre for evaluation".

The Canadian doctors concluded that the injuries documented in the study show that vitamin E oil isn't the only unsafe substance e-cigarette users risk coming into contact with.

The teen worked at a local fast-food restaurant, did not smoke cigarettes, but did begin vaping daily. In this case, however, Martinu said the teen's alveoli was relatively unaffected. There are also seven confirmed or probable cases in Canada. The inflammation in his small airways, she said, left him unable to clear carbon dioxide from his bloodstream.

Diacetyl is safe if ingested, but unsafe if it enters the lungs. After crew at a manufacturing unit that packaged microwave popcorn had been chanced on to have bronchiolitis obliterans more on the entire than diverse folks, some corporations stopped using diacetyl as a flavoring.

Research has found many e-liquid vaping flavours tested contain some level of diacetyl.

The teenager improved over the next several weeks, narrowly avoiding the need for a double lung transplant.

Doctors scheduled a double lung transparent, but the teen started to recover with the help of high-dose steroids. The teen's hometown was not disclosed.

Nonetheless four months later he nonetheless has be troubled respiration, medics talked about. Now doctors have released findings to show this may be the first case of a different and potentially deadly illness associated with e-cigarette use which differs from most previous cases.

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