Posted on: December 18, 2019 at 6:27 pm
Last updated: July 13, 2020 at 5:38 pm

When vaping first came on the scene it seemed like the perfect alternative to smoking. It was the solution that everyone was looking for – it looked like a cigarette, acted like a cigarette, but wasn’t full of all the cancer-causing chemicals found in a traditional dart.

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It seemed like there was no downside to vaping, but as the saying goes… if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

You may have already heard about the 17-year-old boy who had to receive a double lung transplant because of vaping, and as it has increased in popularity, hospitals have been admitting hundreds of patients due to breathing problems associated with vaping.

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Now, a 49-year-old woman has been diagnosed with the first-known case of “Cobalt Lung”  from a marijuana vape [1].

Cobalt Lung

The case, published in the European Respiratory Journal, was recorded as the first-known incidence of hard metal pneumoconiosis, a.k.a., “Cobalt Lung”.

Cobalt Lung is a rare condition in which metals such as cobalt, lead, and aluminum entered into the woman’s lungs and caused damage that cannot be reversed. After testing it in the lab, the juice in her vape pen was found to carry those same metals [2].

The woman formerly smoked cigarettes, but had stopped many years prior. She had been using a marijuana vape pen from the brand ZenPen for the past six months [1].

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Exposure to Metals

This is the first time this condition has been seen as a result of vaping, but not the first time it has been described in the medical literature. Typically, cobalt lung is a condition that affects people who work in hard metal factories, or even diamond polishers who are exposed to hard metals on a regular basis [3].

Scientists are now discovering, though, that these metals are leaking from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by some users [4]. Chronic inhalation of these metals is now being linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even some cancers [4].

Irreversible Lung Damage

The 49-year-old woman involved in the case study had been experiencing a chronic cough and difficulty breathing. When doctors looked more closely, they found scars on her lungs that they deemed to be incurable [1].

Unfortunately, most people who sustain this damage to their lungs will likely not notice until it reaches an irreparable state. The best doctors can do is prescribe steroids to reduce chronic coughing and prevent further scarring [1].

Other Conditions Associated with Marijuana Vapes

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 805 people have become ill and 12 people have died from a mysterious illness that has been linked to vapes containing THC [5].

“The latest findings from the investigation into lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak,” the CDC said [5].

Due to the large variety of vaping devices, ingredients and brands, it is difficult for investigators to pinpoint an exact cause.

“We do not know yet what exactly is making people sick,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, said on a conference call on Friday.

She said the agency hadn’t determined “whether particular solvents or adulterants are leading to lung injury, or whether cases stem from a single supplier or multiple ones.” [5]

Experts Warn People To Put the Pen Down

“We believe it is likely not just that this will happen again, but that it has happened already but not been recognized. One of our major reasons for publishing this case history is to inform our colleagues about the possible risks involved with vaping,” explained Dr. Kirk Jones, a clinical professor of pathology at UCSF and case study co-author [1].

Experts are warning users that vaping – whether your vape contains marijuana or nicotine- may not be as safe as you thought, and you should think twice before taking a puff.

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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