WASHINGTON — State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks.
The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the country. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials this week
As of Aug. 27, there have been 215 possible cases of the illness reported from 25 states.
Nebraska health officials as of Thursday had confirmed one case of the illness and were investigating five possible cases. The person with the confirmed case had been hospitalized but was later released. All of the individuals were men ranging in age from late teens to early 40s.
Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin, known as vitamin E acetate, is available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin.
Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled. Its oil-like properties could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials said.
World-Herald staff writer Julie Anderson contributed to this report.