Tests commissioned by NBC News have revealed that vitamin E—the suspected culprit behind some 800-plus reported cases of vaping-related lung illness—is present in many THC cartridges sold on the black market, alongside other toxicities like pesticides and myclobutanil.
The death toll from the recent vaping crisis has reached 12, according to NBC, and the phenomenon has perplexed scientists. At the beginning of September, investigators from the New York State Department of Health revealed what they thought was causing the onslaught of vaping-linked lung disease: vitamin E acetate in cannabis pens.
NBC commissioned one of the U.S.’s leading cannabis testing facilities to scrutinize a sample of 18 THC cartridges, three of which were purchased from legal dispensaries in California. The testing company didn’t identify any heavy metals, vitamin E or pesticides in any of those carts, but that result wasn’t replicated in the bootleg cartridges.
Of the 15 black market samples, 13 carts were found to contain vitamin E. Testing a subset of 10 unregulated carts, the testing company found all 10 tested positive for pesticides and contained myclobutanil, a fungicide that can turn into hydrogen cyanide when burned.
The findings highlight the fact that, while Americans have wide access to a host of different THC carts, we don’t know much about what’s in them—especially ones sold on the black market.
“I’ve been saying, ‘Look, if you buy a fake Gucci purse, it’s not going to give you a lung injury,” David Downs, the California bureau chief for Leafly, told NBC. “But if you buy a fake vape cartridge, it just might.”
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After graduating from Indiana University-Bloomington with a bachelor’s in journalism, Anicka joined TriMed’s Chicago team in 2017 covering cardiology. Close to her heart is long-form journalism, Pilot G-2 pens, dark chocolate and her dog Harper Lee.
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