A 17-year-old boy was hospitalized in Canada after suffering injuries as a result of vaping. Doctors believe that his injuries are more consistent with “popcorn lung” than the vaping-related illnesses which have plagued the U.S. in recent months. If this assessment is accurate, vaping popcorn lung injury could be yet another health threat that vapers face.
Popcorn lung – or bronchitis obliterans – is a degenerative lung disease more common amongst factory workers in the food and beverage injury. It is often caused as a result of exposure to diacetyl vapors, commonly found as a food and beverage flavor additive. However, studies have shown that diacetyl is also included in some vaping juices as a flavor additive, especially in fruity and buttery vaping juices.
The teen, who remains unnamed, had been “intensively” vaping flavored e-cigarettes on a daily basis for months, sometimes adding THC extract to his e-juices, prior to his hospitalization
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported on Wednesday that the otherwise healthy teen was admitted to a London, Ontario hospital after reportedly suffering from a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, and a fever. He has remained in the hospital for several weeks, with his condition progressively worsening.
He eventually required a ventilator to breathe and was placed on life support.
“It was a relatively wild story; we have not seen something like this that often,” said Tereza Martinu, a lung transplant respirologist who was a part of the team that cared for the teen during his hospitalization. “The referring team was really really worried that he was not going to make it.”
At one point, the team feared that the teen would need to undergo a double lung transplant. Luckily, after weeks of treatment, the teen’s condition slowly began to improve, and did not have to undergo the operation.
After 47 days, he was released from the hospital. Although the team was able to stabilize the boy’s condition, he may suffer from permanent chronic lung damage common with popcorn lung. Due to the condition of his lungs, his airways remain severely obstructed and he is limited to only light exercise.
This could be the first vaping popcorn lung injury reported by healthcare officials.
Healthcare officials have long-feared a popcorn lung vaping link. The American Lung Association called for the FDA to remove diacetyl from the list of accepted chemicals used in vaping products.
“This is an urgent issue for public health, especially given the popularity of e-cigarettes among youth,” the American Lung Association stated on their website.