llicit THC-containing products submitted by 11 of 12 EVALI patients in Minnesota contained vitamin E acetate. Twenty THC-containing products seized during September 2019 contained vitamin E acetate; ten products seized during 2018, before the EVALI outbreak, did not contain vitamin E acetate.
During August 9–October 31, 2019, 96 patients were classified as having e-cigarette, or vaping, product use–associated lung injury (EVALI) by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH); other patients are being investigated for case classification and exposures. Among 58 patients interviewed, 53 (91%) reported obtaining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)–containing products from informal sources such as friends, family members, or in-person or online dealers. Using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GCMS), the MDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) analyzed 46 THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from 12 EVALI patients for various potential toxicants, including vitamin E acetate, which has recently been detected in some THC-containing products and in samples of lung fluid from EVALI patients (1–4). To explore whether vitamin E acetate is a recently added component in THC-containing products, MDH tested ten products seized by law enforcement in 2018, before the EVALI outbreak, and 20 products seized in 2019, during the outbreak.
Twenty-four products obtained from 11 EVALI patients from 2019 contained vitamin E acetate. Among the seized products tested by MDH, none seized in 2018 contained vitamin E acetate, although all tested THC-containing products seized in 2019 tested positive for vitamin E acetate. These chemical analyses of products obtained from EVALI patients and of products intended for the illicit market both before and during the outbreak support a potential role for vitamin E acetate in the EVALI outbreak; however, the number of products tested was small, and further research is needed to establish a causal link between exposure to inhaled vitamin E acetate and EVALI. Collaboration between public health jurisdictions and law enforcement to characterize THC-containing products circulating before the recognition of the EVALI outbreak and during the outbreak might provide valuable information about a dynamic market. These Minnesota findings highlight concerns about e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC acquired from informal sources. Because local supply chains and policy environments vary, CDC continues to recommend not using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC or any e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from informal sources. E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or pregnant women.* Until the relationship between inhaled vitamin E acetate and lung health is better characterized, vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
CDC – November 26, 2019.