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Local doctor says vaping is posing a serious health crisis

Posted at 7:01 AM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 08:07:27-04

Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports about hundreds of people ending up in the hospital due to lung illnesses and other health issues due to vaping. The vaping death toll also has risen from 6 to 13.

Vaping has been around for years, but it really didn’t start to gain popularity, especially with teens and young adults, until 2015.

“E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that can heat a liquid solution and turn that liquid solution into a vapor that can be inhaled,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Chinthaka Bulathsinghala.

Doctors say vaping is posing a serious health crisis.

“There are a lot of toxic compounds that can be found in these e-cigarettes or e-liquids," Dr. Bulathsinghala said. "Those toxic chemical compounds can cause some diseases -- that is why they are dangerous. At Corpus Christi Medical Center, we have reported about 12 cases of vaping-induced lung injuries, and I have taken care of four of them, and those young patients are very sick, actually,”

Dr. Bulathsinghala said just like cigarettes, whose dangers weren’t initially known, long-term effects aren’t known about vaping.

“Researchers have found out a lot of chemical substances that could be toxic to the human body," Dr. Bulathsinghala said. "I will give you few examples: formaldehyde, the ones we are using in the embalming industry; chemical substances like diacetyl can directly cause lung damage; benzene that is linked to leukemia, and THC which is an addictive component we find in marijuana products. These are the probable compounds that can cause damages, but a lot of studies are being carried out to find out what exactly is contained in the e-liquids.”

Dr. Bulathsinghala said vaping is dangerous, and he is now seeing the effect as illnesses have cropped up, not only here in South Texas, but also in almost every state.

“Usually people present respiratory symptoms: cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Four more common symptoms: fever, wheezing, nausea and vomiting, also have been reported,” Dr. Bulathsinghala said.

We have about 14 million e-cigarette users in the United States, about 21 percent or about 3 million of those are middle- or high-school students. Dr. Bulathsinghala said this is a real threat to our future generation.

But as researchers learn more about the negative health effects of vaping, scientists are starting to wonder about the dangers of breathing in secondhand vaping fumes.

The trend is concerning because a number of possibly hazardous chemicals are released by e-cigarettes such as nicotine, heavy metals, aldehydes, glycerin and flavoring substances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 805 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, up 52 percent from the 530 reported a week ago. At this point, illnesses have occurred in almost every state.

Because e-cigarettes don't burn tobacco, most experts agree that e-cigarettes are likely to cause fewer harmful effects than traditional cigarettes.

But some e-cigarettes may contain harmful substances, such as carcinogens, toxic chemicals and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

E-cigarettes containing nicotine aren't considered safe for adolescents, young adults or pregnant women.

Nicotine can harm brain development in children and young adults into their early 20s and is toxic to developing fetuses. Children and adults have also been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.