In recent weeks, a spate of lung illnesses linked to vaping has been making headlines around the country. In fact, there appear to be so many people now getting sick—and even a few dying—that some are beginning to call it a crisis.
One of the troubling aspects of this trend is that, so far, authorities have not been able to figure out exactly what is causing these illnesses.
Now, a new test of legal and illegal THC vape cartridges shows how dangerous knockoff cartridges might be. Additionally, the results of the test could help identify the substance responsible for the illnesses.
NBC News Tests Vape Cartridges
In response to the outbreak of vaping-related lung illness, NBC News commissioned an independent analysis of vape cartridges.
Specifically, the media company hired CannaSafe, a recognized cannabis testing lab, to analyze 18 different THC cartridges.
Three of the cartridges came from legal dispensaries and legal cannabis producers in California. The other 15 cartridges came from illegal black market sources.
After testing all 18 cartridges, CannaSafe reported that the three legal products were clean. Specifically, they did not contain pesticides, heavy metals such as lead, or other contaminants like Vitamin E.
However, the test results on the 15 black market cartridges were a very different story.
Thirteen of the 15 illegal cartridges showed contaminants, and in many cases, potentially very dangerous contaminants.
For starters, 13 of the 15 sample cartridges had Vitamin E in them. When vaporized and inhaled, Vitamin E can cause serious lung and other health problems.
At this point, many health officials suspect Vitamin E is being used to cut the THC oil found in many illegal cartridges. Many suspect this could be behind many of the recent lung illnesses linked to vaping.
Additionally, 10 black market cartridges tested positive for pesticides. Each of them had a fungicide called myclobutanil.
When burned, this chemical turns into hydrogen cyanide, which scientists told NBC News can be extremely toxic.
“You certainly don’t want to be smoking cyanide,” Antonio Frazier, vice president of operations at CannaSafe, told NBC News. “I don’t think anyone would buy a cart that was labeled hydrogen cyanide on it.”
Pediatric Pulmonologist Dr. Melodi Pirzada said that myclobutanil is “going to cause a very toxic effect on the lungs.” She said the fact that this substance was found in THC cartridges is “very disturbing.”
The health risks associated with vaping THC cartridges—and, as this new test shows, black market cartridges in particular—has been receiving more and more attention in recent weeks.
And for good reason.
So far, at least 12 people have died from lung illnesses linked to vaping products. Additionally, more than 800 other people have been hospitalized with similar symptoms from vaping.
It appears that the outbreak is national in scope. Forty-six states have reported lung problems linked to vaping.
At this point, health officials seem fairly certain that vaping is the root cause of these illnesses and deaths. And it appears that the illnesses are coming largely from vaping black market, knockoff THC cartridges in particular.
But that’s as far as officials have gotten. There still is not any clear consensus on what in these cartridges is making people sick. Vitamin E acetate is a frontrunner at this point. And findings from the new NBC News study seem to support the idea that this substance is what’s making people sick.