Olive Lundegaard October 7, 2019
As the number of confirmed cases of a mysterious illness and deaths linked to e-cigarette use skyrocket, government and health officials, advocates on both sides, and consumers are wondering who or what is to blame—“black market” vapes, THC and CBD oil, and e-cigarette companies like Juul Labs are the target.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol is the second most prevalent active ingredients in marijuana-derived from hemp plants. It offers health benefits including relief from seizures, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. CBD oil does not contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. There is no evidence that pure CBD oil is harmful for human consumption in any way. However, the rise in unregulated e-cigarettes and vaping products has created a health concern because you don’t actually know what’s in the cartridge.
In an exclusive interview, Doctor Syed Husain, DO, discusses the danger of unregulated e-cigarettes. Doctor Husain is a pain management specialist, board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation & Pain Medicine. Husain explained that “black market” and unregulated e-cigarette and vape sellers and manufacturers get empty cartridges and fill them up themselves with “CBD oil.” However, as Husain explained, CBD oil is expensive, so some sellers cut it with cheaper oils—making the content of the cartridges not pure CBD oil.
The Danger of Unregulated CBD E-cigarettes
While the exact reason why patients are getting sick is still being investigated, the problem is thought to be with the combustion of the CBD oil cartridge within the vaping pens. Husain explained that the combustion temperature that dissolves CBD oil, making it safe for users to inhale it, is different than the temperature necessary for the other oils to dissolve. Husain warns that e-cigarette and vape products don’t heat up enough to dissolve all the other oils cut into the CBD mixture. Users are basically inhaling substances that are not properly vaporized, and these substances then cause inflammation making the gas exchange in the lungs more difficult.
The Problem Lies in the Lungs
The problem with inhaling unidentified oil is that certain chemicals sit in the lung tissue causing damage and inflammation. This prevents proper oxygenation to occur, and can potentially afect other organs. Symptoms including shortness of breath and coughing are common among the patients that have been affected using contaminated CBD oil.
When unregulated manufactures cut CBD with other oils, consumers are left with unknown substances that accumulate in the lung tissue.
How Consumers Obtain Regulated and Unregulated CBD E-cigarettes
Husain explained that all CBD oil prescribed by doctors goes through state agencies and is regulated. The CBD oil is checked for impurities and tested to heat up at the same temperature. Consumers who purchase “official vapes” through dispensaries are getting pure CBD oil e-cigarettes; this is why dispensaries are more expensive than vape shops. Consumers may freely purchase CBD e-cigarettes and vape products.
The problem is that people are getting vaping pens that are not coming through official dispensaries regulated by New York State. Vape pens at vape shops can have anything inside of them. They aren’t tested to heat up at the same temperature and they aren’t regulated. Officials are finding that sellers are cutting other substances into the CBD oil to make it cheaper.
The manager of a local vape shop has stopped selling flavored e-cigarette products, pursuant to Governor Cuomo’s recent ban, but admitted that the shop gets the vaping products from wholesalers and doesn’t know where the wholesalers get the products or what is in them.
One man in Michigan was arrested for allegedly running a “drug ring” that filled up to 5,000 bootleg vaping cartridges per day, selling each for $22. In August, three men were arrested in Long Island, New York after officials raided a home and confiscated millions of dollars in cash and counterfeit vaping products.
The Growing Health Crisis
The CDC has confirmed 805 cases of the mysterious lung disease and 12 deaths linked to vaping. No single product or substance has been linked to every case. The FDA issued a warning letter to Juul Labs regarding their deceptive marketing practices, the CDC is urging people to refrain from using any e-cigarette products, and state and federal officials are issuing bans on flavored e-cigarette cartridges.