The FDA is reviewing the safety of using e-cigarettes, or vaping, as a healthier substitute for regular cigarettes. The agency has held public workshops discussing the safety of e-cigarettes, examining a few chemical analyses that have come back indicating that vaping liquids may contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals.
A recent case of a 45-year-old woman referred to a clinic with abdominal pain and a fever have raised eyebrows on the potential toxic effects e-cigarettes have on the body.
When the patient arrived at the clinic, she was ordered a full-body workup, which included a CT scan. The scan showed that there were nodules in the lungs and lesions in the liver. A PET scan confirmed similar similar areas in one ovary. The patient then underwent the a lung and liver biopsy. The symptoms matched that of metastatic cancer.
As a former cigarette smoker for 20 years, the patient had switched to vaping only 20 months prior to the clinic visit. However, after that first appointment, the patient quit vaping. Six weeks later, a follow-up CT scan was performed, and clinicians were shocked to discover significant shrinking of the nodules. Five months later, all lung nodules had completely regressed.
When clinicians connected the dots to the patients e-cigarette usage, they re-examined the lung biopsy and discovered multinucleated giant cells. They surmised it was a foreign-body reaction to the glycerin-based oils found in vaping liquid, and said the results suggested that vaping may cause a special type of inflammation in the lungs that imitates cancer.
Although vaping is a popular substitute for cigarette smoking, it may still introduce toxic chemicals to the body, such as diacetyl, a chemical that produces a buttery or creamy flavor, often found in vaping liquids as a flavoring agent.
Diacetyl is already linked to serious lung diseases such as obliterative bronchiolitis, better known as “popcorn lung.” The term was coined because the condition affected workers who handled microwave popcorn flavored with diacetyl.