In just a matter of six months, a vaping-related lung disease has sickened more than 800 people in the United States. Thirteen of the patients did not survive the illness in this mysterious outbreak that is said to involve THC vaping products. The rising figures of those affected has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC to issue a warning against vaping THC products.
As the name suggests, THC vaping products differ from regular vaping products because they contain THC oil instead of nicotine. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive compound that is found in cannabis plants. Unlike the other active cannabis compound CBD, THC produces a high sensation.
With marijuana becoming legal in some states, the popularity of vaping weed has increased. For some marijuana aficionados, they believe that vaping marijuana is safer than smoking it or vaping nicotine. However, the recent developments involving hundreds of people falling ill after using THC vape products have placed doubts in many people’s minds.
Vaping On The Rise
In 2018, the rise of vaping in the United States was phenomenal, especially among the young population. It was reported that 3.6 million youth were vaping and there was a 78% increase in the number of high school students vaping compared in the previous year. While vaping e-cigarettes was initially introduced as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, it has been found that many vapers were first-time users.
The sleek and modern design of vape pens was said to be one of the reasons for vaping’s rising popularity. Some vape pens like JUUL resemble slim USB drives that’s why they often escape the notice of many parents and school administrators. New vape pen designs are also portable and very convenient for users to carry. For many teens, a JUUL is easier to hide than a pack of cigarettes.
This convenience is also one of the reasons why weed users switch to vaping. Using a vape pen to smoke drugs like marijuana is more practical than carrying a bong or other obvious paraphernalia that may be frowned upon in public. On the contrary, if they use a vape pen, they can discreetly smoke in public without being obvious about what they are smoking.
THC vape pens are also readily available on the streets. In fact, the CDC has found that the majority of the patients affected with the lung illness acquired their THC vape products off the streets. While there were users who also vaped nicotine, pre-filled THC vaping products was the primary common denominator among the victims.
The THC Vape Pen Mystery
CDC’s warning brings into question whether vaping THC has safety implications. Is there something about the process that’s causing people to get sick? Is it the THC itself or maybe it is a chemical mixed with the THC oil? At the moment, the answers to these burning questions still remain a mystery. According to CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schucha, health officials are still unaware what is specifically causing the illness.
According to health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin, two states affected by the lung disease outbreak, they found that the majority of the patients said that while they used multiple brands, the brand “Dank Vapes” was more commonly used. However, it was also noted by investigators from CDC that the “Dank Vapes” label appears to be the most prominent in a class of largely counterfeit brands. Many black-market distributors use the packaging that is widely available online to market THC containing cartridges. This makes it difficult to pinpoint a single source of these knock-off products.
An independent testing commissioned by NBC News found alarming information regarding unregulated marijuana vape products. The laboratory both tested marijuana vape cartridges from legal dispensaries in California and black market ones. Of the three sourced from legal dispensaries, the findings showed no pesticides, no heavy metals, or residual solvents such as Vitamin E.
However, after testing 10 black market products, all 10 tested positive for a pesticide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned. Hydrogen cyanide is used in the production of pesticides, plastics, and in fumigation. Being exposed to hydrogen cyanide can be rapidly fatal because it can affect your entire body, particularly your heart, blood vessels, brain, and lungs. This is the reason why this chemical has also been used in chemical warfare and prison executions.
The findings from this laboratory testing shed a bit more light into the issue. However, no official proclamation has been made yet by CDC to pinpoint the exact cause of this lung disease outbreak. For now, the warning to avoid THC vape products still stands.
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