A Canadian teenager developed a dangerous vaping disease that is not similar to lung disease seen in patients throughout the United States. Instead, it resembles those who deal with lung damage in a microwave popcorn factory developed many years ago by inhaling an oily taste.
Doctors say a previously healthy 17-year-old child was seriously ill for several months and used several products that he purchased online through a Canadian retailer before getting sick last spring. Products were produced with different tastes: “green apple”, “mountain dew” and “cotton candy”.
The boy’s family said he inhaled deeply when vaping and regularly added THC, the main ingredient in marijuana, which gives users high quality, to his devices.
“Our patient and his family want the public to know that what happened to him can happen to anyone,” said Dr. Karen Bosma, lead author of the report and resuscitator at the London Center for Medical Sciences in Ontario, Canada. She is also a research fellow at the Lawson Health Research Institute.
Bosma and colleagues reported the boy’s case on Thursday at CMAJ (Journal of the Canadian Medical Association).
The young man was hospitalized a week after he began to cough, which he could not get rid of, as well as fever and breathing problems. His lung function rapidly deteriorated, and he temporarily ended up on life support.
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According to doctors, he barely escaped the need for a double lung transplant, but he seems to have chronic lung damage.
Bosma told NBC News that a CT scan of the young man’s lungs showed damage to his respiratory tract and he was having difficulty breathing out carbon dioxide.
Despite the similarity of symptoms, the lung disease in the young man seems to be slightly different from more than 2,000 cases in the United States.
Many patients in the United States have damage in the tiny air sacs responsible for passing oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the lungs.
Doctors in the Canadian case could not find this kind of damage. Instead, they saw another view that looked like what is commonly called "light popcorn."
The term “popcorn lung” comes from a workers ’disease in a popcorn factory developed nearly two decades ago: a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. Some were so sick that they were sent for a lung transplant.
A lengthy investigation revealed that the cause of the illness was inhalation of diacetyl, an oily flavor. It is no longer used by most major companies that make microwave popcorn.
It is unclear whether the same chemical was found in the Canadian boy’s electronic liquids. The products he drank were thrown away.
In the summer, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was considering adding diacetyl to the list of chemicals found in tobacco products that are known to be harmful. The chemical flavor is approved for use in food, but not in aerosol products.
Teen addiction experts say electronic cigarettes are so attractive to young people. The Trump administration seems to have rejected the proposed ban on flavors, although the FDA has the authority to move forward with such a restriction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to update its weekly count of vaping-related diseases nationwide later on Thursday.
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