Nearly 200 cases of respiratory illness link to vaping

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The first death linked to vaping happened in Illinois last week, now health officials are on high alert as the devices may not be as safe as people originally thought.

“We have kids coming in with things as benign as cough and shortness of breath but as severe as coughing up blood and respiratory collapse, needing mechanical ventilation and life support,” said Dr. Jacob Kaslow, a fellow in Pediatric Pulmonology at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

This year, the Vanderbilt Children’s hospital is reporting up to seven possible respiratory illnesses related to vaping. They are ages 14 to 18.

“That’s the scary part, we don’t know what’s causing all of this,” Kaslow said, “There’s a lot of theories, the CDC and health departments are analyzing a lot of the vapors and talking to patients across the country, but nobody’s 100 percent sure what’s causing this rise.”

Across the country, there have been nearly 200 reported respiratory illnesses linked to vaping since June 28th. The first death was in Illinois Friday.

“I fear that as this trend rises, this might not be the first,” Kaslow said.

Devices such as e-cigarettes and Juuls turn various liquids into vape for inhaling–often containing nicotine and other ingredients currently not federally regulated.

“We sell premium products in this shop,” Ivan Adler who owns Elevated Smoke and Vape Shop in Nashville, “The reason people are getting sick from these cartridges is the fact that they’re made with inferior ingredients or ingredients that shouldn’t be in cartridges in the first place.”

So far, Vanderbilt has tested one patient’s vape liquid and the results were not good.

Kaslow said it contained Diacetyl, which is a chemical linked to “popcorn lung”  or bronchiolitis obliterans — a condition that damages the lungs’ smallest airways.

Popcorn factory workers used to get the respiratory illness due to inhaling the chemical found in popcorn butter.

“We do know that many of the compounds that have been analyzed do show that there are no respiratory toxicants, but there’s a lot of compounds that we just don’t know what they do to your respiratory or your airways,” Kaslow said.

Adler adds, “People should avoid buying anything from their friends or anything on the street or anything that’s not in a regulated store that would be selling premium products.”

Symptoms of respiratory illnesses include coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, and chest pain.

The Tennessee Department of Health is asking doctors across the state to send in numbers of reported respiratory illnesses linked to vaping in hopes of gathering more data and finding trends.

The CDC and FDA announced last week that they are also looking into the stats.

“Unfortunately the only real way to know is more research, more data,” Kaslow said, “Unfortunately more data often means more kids getting sick.”

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