As mysterious vaping illnesses escalate, experts search for answers

(Photo obtained from The mysterious vaping illness is becoming an epidemic, with a total of 6 deaths due to usage of e-cigarettes.

By Ava DiGiacomo, Senior Chief News Editor

What’s going on?

In two months, six deaths have been recorded throughout The United States due to vaping. The deaths have been reported in Illinois, Kansas, California, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon. Each patient that had died from vaping had been around 30 years old. However, patients in their teens and early twenties have been checking into the hospital with similar symptoms of the six that died from the mysterious disease. 

As of September 6, “there have been more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with using e-cigarettes reported to the CDC across 33 states and the US Virgin Islands,” according to a September 11 Fox News article. 

The symptoms include severe shortness of breath, vomiting, fever and fatigue. Due to worsening symptoms, some teens have been sent to the intensive care unit and were put on a ventilator for multiple weeks. 

The Fox News article published on September 11 tells the story of Jennifer Audas, a mother to her 17 year old daughter. Her daughter was checked into Children’s Medical Center Dallas a week ago. Audas said she started vaping to quit smoking, but never anticipated the outcome.

“You think cigarettes […] you are going to get cancer, so this is much healthier because that’s the way it’s portrayed,” Audas told Fox News. 

Audas’ daughter has not left the hospital due to her worsening symptoms. She remains on life support with pneumonia in both lungs.

What we know and what we don’t know

Flavored pods have a higher level of nicotine than cigarettes do, which sparks concern for people, especially teenagers using e-cigarettes. This is because of the negative effects nicotine has on the brain, especially while the brain is still developing. Also, the long term effects of vaping are still unknown which raises even more concerns for nicotine addicted teens.

Nicotine is mixed with solvents that dissolve and deliver the drugs. The solvents, or oils, heat up to become vapor. According to an August 31 article in The New York Times, it is believed some oil droplets may be left over as the liquid cools back down. Inhaling this liquid can cause breathing problems and inflammation in the lungs, which can lead to death or life long complications. 

Health officials say that they have not found a definitive cause for the mysterious illness. However, according to a September 6th article in The Washington Post, New York health officials linked the chemical vitamin E acetate to those who checked into the hospital with the illness.

Health investigators are currently trying to determine whether a particular toxin or substance was sneaked into the supply of vaping products. The unknowns of the usage of e-cigarettes raise concern for the long term consequences teenagers will face from vaping at a young age.