A Canadian teenager has developed a dangerous vaping disease that does not look like lung disease seen in patients in the US. Instead, it resembles the kind of lung-damaged workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed years ago by breathing in a buttery aroma.
Doctors said the healthy 17-year-old had been vaping for months and was using several products he bought online through a Canadian retailer before falling ill last spring. The products came with different flavors: "green apple", "dew mountain" and "cotton candy".
The boy's family said he was inhaling deeply while vaping, and regularly added THC, the main ingredient in marijuana that gives users a high level on their devices.
"Our patient and family want the public to be aware that what happened to him could happen to anyone," said Dr. Karen Bosma, lead author of the report and intensive care physician at the London Health Sciences Center in Ontario. , Canada. She is also an associate scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute.
Bosma and colleagues reported the boy's case Thursday in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
The young man was admitted to hospital a week after developing a cough that could not shake, as well as fever and difficulty breathing. His lung function deteriorated rapidly and he ended up temporarily in life support.
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He narrowly avoided the need for a double lung transplant, doctors said, but appears to have chronic lung damage.
Bosma told NBC News that a CT scan of the young man's lungs showed airway damage, and he had difficulty exhaling carbon dioxide.
Despite similarities in symptoms, young people's lung disease appears to be slightly different from the more than 2,000 cases in the US.
Many patients in the US suffer damage to the small air sacs responsible for oxygen and carbon dioxide entering and out of the lungs.
The doctors in the Canadian case could not find such damage. Instead, they saw a different type that looks like what is commonly known as a "popcorn lung".
The term "popcorn lung" comes from workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed nearly two decades ago: a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. Several were so ill that they were referred for lung transplantation.
Long research has shown that the cause of the disease was inhalation of diacetyl, a buttery flavor. It is no longer used by most large companies that produce microwave popcorn.
It is unclear whether the same chemical was found in the Canadian boy's electronic liquids. The products that he vapped were thrown away.
Over the summer, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was considering adding diacetyl to the list of chemicals found in tobacco products that are known to be harmful. The chemical aroma is approved for use in food, but not in aerosol products.
Teen addiction experts say the flavors of electronic cigarettes are so appealing to young people. The Trump administration appears to have moved away from a taste ban proposal, although the FDA has the authority to move forward with this restriction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to update its weekly count of vaping-related diseases nationwide by Thursday.
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