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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has exposed 380 cases of lung illnesses in 36 states and one U.S. territory with six confirmed deaths associated with the use of vape pens. These reports blame e-cigarettes, nicotine vapes, THC, and CBD carts. In the last several years vaping nicotine and THC or CBD oil cartridges have skyrocketed in popularity because of their discreteness and lack of odor. This popularity produces companies and illegal manufacturers looking to make a quick buck by cutting corners. They’ve been doing this by using non-cannabis ingredients such as vitamin E acetate and cheap hardware.

These non-cannabis ingredients, additives, flavorings, and “thickening agents” are meant to dilute cannabis oil mixtures in various ways. Vitamin E acetate, propylene glycol (PG,) PEG 400, vegetable glycerin (VG,) and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT,) have all been used in the legal and black market. In a report the New York State Department of Health conducted, it showed the majority of the bootleg THC cartridges they gathered contained vitamin E acetate, per Rolling Stone. This compound is most typically found in topical creams, ointments, and skin supplements.

In response, nationwide attention has turned towards the makers of diluent products for vapes. In a statement Governor Andrew Cuomo made on Monday, he brought up three companies that have been served subpoenas with orders to assist in a total FDA investigation. Honey Cut, Mass Terpenes, and Floraplex Terpenes have all taken away products or in Honey Cut’s case, their entire website. These ingredients were primarily in use by black market cart makers. These illegally made cartridges are in far wider circulation than we think.

Vitamin E Acetate Health Risks

As the investigation has gone on, it’s becoming widely suspect that vitamin E acetate is a substantial factor in the lung ailments. As mentioned, it’s meant for skin cream. It’s completely harmless when you take it orally or apply it topically. Conversely, if you’re inhaling the substance it can cause lipoid pneumonitis—a condition that results from ingesting fat particles into the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Patients have been reporting these symptoms in conjunction with vaping cartridges they got from illegal sources.

Know What’s In Your Cart

Aside from vitamin E, there could be a number of issues with the oil you’re vaping and the cartridge it’s in. Lower quality cartridges come made out of cheap plastics and metals. When brought up to higher temperatures the possibility of the materials releasing toxic contaminants increase. Recently, there was a scare about lead content in vape cartridges in California. It seems apparent that a lot of faulty hardware is making its way into the United States. The only way to really combat that as a consumer is to ask questions, and demand test results.

Is Vaping Still Safe?

Vape Cartridge Illness Leaves Six Dead And 450 People In Severe Pain

The majority of the reports coming in with people experiencing severe chest pain are from illegal manufacturers. If you live in a legal state for purchasing recreational cannabis products—exercise caution. Go with brands that are free of pesticides and additives if you’re truly worried. Any licensed recreational or medical cannabis store will have pure cannabis oil that has undergone several state compliance tests.

The hardware and ingredients used in vape products is in dire need of further regulation and standardization. It doesn’t matter if they’re for THC, CBD, or nicotine. The unfortunate events that are unfolding only further bring that to life. NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said to Rolling Stone that “consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal. Quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace.”

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