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DEA: COVID-19 has put EVALI outbreak on the back burner

DEA: COVID-19 has put EVALI outbreak on the back burner (photo: CDC){p}{/p}
DEA: COVID-19 has put EVALI outbreak on the back burner (photo: CDC)

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Before the covid-19 crisis began, one of the biggest health issues the CDC focused on was a disease called EVALI - a vape related lung disease that started spreading across the U.S. EVALI stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury. The name EVALI is in response to a growing number of severe lung illness cases related to using e-cigarette and vaping products, the first outbreak being identified just last year.

The CDC confirmed that EVALI is caused by Vitamin E Acetate Oil, which is mainly found in illegal THC vaping cartridges purchased on the blackmarket.

“These vials and inserts that go into the vaping devices, some of these are made on the black market using illegal marijuana illegal THC, so now these unregulated standards is even worse,” said Dante Sorianello, the assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the San Antonio district.

Studies have found that cases of EVALI were most commonly found in states where consumers do not have legal access to recreational marijuana dispensaries. In fact, Texas has the highest number of EVALI cases or deaths reported to the CDC.

“The old time strength of marijuana of thc content was down there in that 3-4% maybe 8% of it was really good stuff, now the average across the country is well over 20% and in some of these vaping products, it can get up to 40% and there is a compound of thc that is up to 90% that comes out of a vaping product of THC,” said Sorianello.

During the 2019 EVALI outbreak, the CDC reported 2,155 total cases, which included 360 adolescents, 859 young adult cases and 936 adult cases. Researchers uncovered that adolescents (those between 10-19) reported using THC containing products was 82% and nicotine containing products were 62%. Out of the report, behaviorial, mental or emotional disorders were common among all ages. But a history of attention-deficit and or hyperactivity disorder was found nearly 4 times more likely among teenagers than adults.

“This is something that no one is talking about and there’s more medical research being done on marijuana right now and THC and CBD yet it’s still minimal and yet there’s this free-for-all on the marketing of these products and we do not know the long-term effects,” said Sorianello.

In this unregulated marijuana, THC, vaping industry, the DEA says marketing ploys are targeting the young, giving them the belief that it will do no harm.

“So this is not the marijuana that grow in the forest that someone may say is a natural product, this is a lab grown plant, so yes it’s coming from a plant but it’s not that normal plant,” said Sorianello.

The COVID-19 crisis has put the EVALI outbreak on the back burner in many ways. The report’s investigators urge clinicians and public health officials to continue discussing EVALI and the link to THC containing e-cigarette or vaping product use.

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In your neighborhood, on the streets, Fox San Antonio and the DEA will keep you informed and safe.

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