Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • What Is Vaping-Associated Lung Injury?

What Is Vaping-Associated Lung Injury?

Oct 23 2019 Read 1371 Times

In a new Mayo Clinic study that challenges the concept of vaping as a "healthy" alternative to smoking, a team of researchers warns that toxic chemical fumes inhaled when using electronic cigarettes can cause significant lung injury.

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and explores the pathology of vaping-associated lung injury. While the research is still in its early stages, the team warn that inhaling noxious chemical fumes from electronic cigarettes can cause direct toxicity and tissue damage, resulting in serious lung injuries.

Toxic gases and fumes identified as lung injury culprits

As part of the Mayo Clinic study, the team reviewed lung biopsies from 17 patients. All engaged in regular electronic cigarette use and were displaying the warning signs of vaping-associated lung injury. While there was no evidence of tissue injury caused by buildup of lipids such as mineral oils, the study did identify chemical injury caused by toxic gases and chemical fumes.  

"While we can't discount the potential role of lipids, we have not seen anything to suggest this is a problem caused by lipid accumulation in the lungs," explains Dr. Brandon Larsen, a lung pathology expert, surgical pathologist at Mayo Clinic Arizona and senior author of the study. "Instead, it seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents."

Experts condemn vaping as "healthy" alternative

Vaping is often considered a "healthy" alternative to smoking, though over the past few months the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported almost 1000 lung injury cases linked to vaping. In the United States, there have also been more than 25 confirmed fatalities linked to vaping. Dr. Larsen and his team hope the new study highlights the life-threatening risks of vaping and encourages electronic cigarette users to consider the dangers of inhaling toxic chemicals.

"We were not surprised by what we found, regarding toxicity," asserts Dr. Larsen. "We have seen a handful of cases, scattered individual cases, over the past two years where we've observed the same thing, and now we are seeing a sudden spike in cases. Our study offers the first detailed review of the abnormalities that may be seen in lung biopsies to help clinicians and pathologists make a diagnosis in an appropriate clinical context."

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