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Michigan reports second death during outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A second person in Michigan has died from a vaping-related lung injury, the state's department of health and human services announced Wednesday.

The death is the latest amid an outbreak of lung injuries that's already spurred state regulators to institute a pause on the sale of marijuana vaping products in Michigan.

Bob Wheaton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), confirmed the man who died used THC, the compound of marijuana that produces the high.

MDHHS is releasing no other information about the individual for confidentiality reasons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Nov. 7 that 
new government figures show more than 2,000 Americans have come down with vaping-related illnesses.

"We are urging people to refrain from vaping until the specific cause of the vaping-related severe lung injuries being reported nationwide has been identified," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for MDHHS. "To help with this investigation, we are reminding health care providers to report patients that may have this condition to their local health department."

For months now, health officials nationwide have been investigating the outbreak of lung injuries. As of Nov. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tracked 2,290 cases of lung injuries related to vaping and 47 deaths.

Since August, 56 "confirmed and probable" vaping-related lung injury cases have been reported in Michigan, according to MDHHS. The state reported the first death amid the outbreak on Oct. 4.

The CDC has named vitamin E acetate, an additive that's been used as a cutting agent in marijuana vaping products, as a "chemical of concern" among those with the injuries. The CDC previously announced that it tested liquids from the lungs of 29 patients and found remnants of vitamin E acetate in all of the samples.

Vitamin E acetate usually does not cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement, but research suggests it can be dangerous when inhaled, according to the CDC.

On Friday, Michigan regulators announced emergency rules and a ban on the use of vitamin E acetate in marijuana vaping products. Before then, it was legal to use it as an additive, but officials in the marijuana business said it's most frequently used in products that are sold in the illicit market.

A vitamin E acetate sample.

In addition to banning vitamin E acetate, Michigan regulators instituted new testing requirements for marijuana vaping products before being put up for sale. The moves effectively paused the sale of the products in Michigan until they are tested under the new guidelines.

The temporarily halt means vaping products won't be available as Michigan's first recreational sales of marijuana occur in December.

Vaping users should immediately seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever and vomiting, MDHHS said in a press release Wednesday. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/vapelung.