After more than six months of hospitalizations and deaths caused by a mysterious vaping-related sickness, officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have announced their first list of THC cartridge brands associated with the illness.
According to the Associated Press, CDC experts found that 56 percent of hospitalized patients reported consuming a Dank Vapes brand cartridge before they fell ill. 15 percent of vape illness sufferers said that they used TKO brand carts; 13 percent said they had used a Smart Cart; and 12 percent said they had puffed a Rove brand cartridge. On a whole, 80 percent of more than 1,800 hospitalized patients said that they had used a cannabis cartridge. What’s unclear, though, is if the patients consumed real carts from the aforementioned brands, or bootlegs that were designed to mimic them.
“The nationwide diversity of THC-containing products reported by patients suggests it is unlikely a single brand is responsible for the outbreak, and regional differences in THC-containing products might be related to product sources,” the new report detailed.
But while the brand names mentioned by vape sickness patients may be common in unregulated markets, labels like Dank Vapes and Smart Cart are not associated with a legal cannabis brand in any state. And for companies like TKO and Rove, which are both licensed in California’s recreational marijuana market, officials say that tainted carts can be directly traced to the underground weed industry’s massive counterfeit market.
“If you bought them outside of California... you are the proud owner of fakes,” Bill Loucks, co-founder of TKO Products, told the AP.
As for what’s inside the hundreds of thousands of off-brand and counterfeit cartridges circulating around the US pot market, health officials are not quite ready to single out any one particular contaminant. The CDC report once again named the chemical thickening agent vitamin E acetate as a likely culprit, but noted the possibility that cartridge hardware leaking heavy metals or residual pesticides from improperly produced oils could also be the root cause of the crisis.
“Although it appears that vitamin E acetate is associated with [vape-related sickness], many substances and product sources are being investigated, and there might be more than one cause,” the report’s authors stressed.
Outside of admitted cannabis users, 13 percent of vaping illness patients said that they had used only nicotine vape products before they fell ill, and 1 percent said that they had used only CBD vapes. And without any concrete causal evidence to admonish or exonerate any specific products, CDC officials ended their latest report with a warning that Americans should stay away from all vaping oils — be they cannabis or nicotine — until the health crisis is over.
“While the investigation continues, persons should consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products,” the report stated.
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