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Fourth Michigan person dies from vaping-related injury

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A fourth person in Michigan has died because of a vaping-related lung injury, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

The department said it was notified of the death of an adult female on Wednesday, the latest development in a months-long outbreak of lung injuries. Nationally, there had been 2,758 cases in which people were hospitalized or died as of Feb. 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Laboratory data has "strongly linked" vitamin E acetate, an additive used in some marijuana vaping products, to the outbreak, the CDC has said. But the state Department of Health and Human Services continued to caution Thursday that "there are many different substances" being investigated.

A woman using a vaping device exhales a puff of smoke.

It's unclear whether the person whose death was disclosed Thursday used marijuana products, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the state health department. 

"Although reports of new cases related to this outbreak have decreased in Michigan and across the country, new cases continue to be reported," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for the state department. "We urge Michigan residents to refrain from vaping until a definite source or sources have been identified."

Since August 2019, 73 confirmed and probable vaping-related lung injury cases have been reported in Michigan, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. All of the cases have been reported in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and most of the individuals have been hospitalized for severe respiratory illness.

Michigan's health department continues to recommend that people not use THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly from informal sources such as friends, family, or in-person or online sellers.

THC is the compound of marijuana that causes the high, according to the CDC.

Vitamin E acetate had been a legal additive in Michigan's regulated marijuana market until Nov. 22 when state regulators banned its use. Critics have said it took the state too long to respond to the outbreak.

Because of its thickness, vitamin E acetate has been used as a cutting agent in some marijuana vaping products.

Emergency department visits related to vaping products continue to decline, after sharply increasing in August 2019 and peaking in September, according to the CDC.

The CDC said the reasons for the decline "may" be related to increased public awareness of the risk associated with using marijuana vaping products, the removal of vitamin E acetate from some products and law enforcement actions to combat illicit products.