A public health official issued a warning about the dangers of unlicensed cannabis products following the hospitalization of seven Californians who fell ill after vaping. In a notice released last week, Dr. Milton Teske, health officer with the Kings County Department of Public Health, said that those stricken had been taken to the hospital in the Central California community after experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms.
“Since June, seven cases of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) have been identified, requiring hospitalization and respiratory support among previously healthy adults,” reads the notice. “Some of these patients’ conditions were so severe they were admitted to the intensive care unit and required respiratory support through mechanical devices.”
Initial symptoms of ARDS include the feeling that one can’t get enough air into the lungs, rapid breathing, low blood oxygen level, low blood pressure, confusion, and extreme tiredness.
Six of the patients are in their 20s and the last is a 60-year-old experienced cannabis user who had tried vaping for the first time. Teske noted that all seven patients had recently used THC or CBD oil vape cartridges that they had purchased at unlicensed marijuana “pop-up shops” and urged consumers to purchase cannabis products only at regulated retailers.
“If you’re going to vape THC, get it from a licensed dispensary where you know there’s a certain amount of testing required to do,” Teske said. “It’s going to cost twice as much as the stuff on the street, but you don’t want to end up with a life-threatening respiratory condition.”
Similar Cases Across US
California isn’t the first area to see people experiencing lung problems after vaping, although it appears some cases may involve the use of nicotine vaporizers. Health officials in New York warned health care providers on Friday to be on the alert for pulmonary disease caused by vaping. The New York Department of Health is currently investigating 11 cases of lung problems related to vaping, most in the western part of the state.
“While many people consider vaping to be a less dangerous alternative to smoking cigarettes, it is not risk free,” state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. “These latest reports of pulmonary disease in people using vaping products in New York and other states are proof that more study is needed on the long-term health effects of these products.”
Dr. Melodi Pirzada, a pediatric lung specialist at New York University Winthrop Hospital, said that she has seen two cases of patients who experienced lung problems after vaping, including an 18-year-old athlete.
“We’re all baffled,” Pirzada said, adding that the only common factor was that they had been vaping.
On Thursday, health officials in Wisconsin reported that 15 cases of lung trouble brought on by vaping had been confirmed and 15 more were being investigated. Health officials in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota are also investigating cases of lung problems potentially caused by vaping.