Watch CBS News

Study: Damage From E-Cigs, Vaping On Par With Mustard Gas Burns In Lungs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The bad news keeps piling on about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

Late Thursday afternoon, Connecticut reported its first death tied to vaping. This news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced there are 1,800 people sick from vaping, including 18 deaths.

A new study from the Mayo Clinic describes the lung damage in some vaping patients that look like chemical burns, reports Dr. Max Gomez.

The patients in the study had been vaping nicotine or marijuana products.

All these vaping products also contain dozens of other compounds that could be toxic to the lungs.

The researchers found that the lung damage seen in tissue samples was very different from what most experts had thought.

MORE: CDC Report On Outbreak Of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping

E-cigarettes started out as a way to wean smokers off regular cigarettes. Giving smokers their addictive nicotine fix without some of the other toxic compounds in cigarette smoke.

That tactic never quite got many smokers off their cigarettes. Worse yet, there are so many vaping compound formulations that researchers and regulators haven't been able to figure out the health effects of all the chemicals in vaping products.

"There's probably hundreds, as you've suggested, different chemicals, heavy metals that are being off-gassed when heated to this high temperature, and we have no idea what it does to the lung," said Dr. Louis DePalo of Mount Sinai Hospital. "There's heavy metals, cannabis, hundreds of different compounds that are outgassed and we have no idea what it does to the lungs."

DePalo, a pulmonologist who has treated patients with lung damage from vaping, says doctors used to think the damage came from vaping oils that coated the tiny lung sacs and prevented breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.

READ: Pathology of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury Study

Now a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says the damage is actually much different.

Looking at tissue samples from 17 patients from around the country, two of whom died, Mayo Clinic researchers said the damage looked much more like damage from poisons like mustard gas.

"We see it in smoke inhalation, we see it in chemical and industrial accidents, where chemicals are spewed into the environment," said DePalo. "The lung is inflamed and irritated."

If there's a little bit of good news it's that the massive inflammation might respond to high dose steroids... maybe.

MORE: New Jersey Reports First Death Associated With Vaping-Related Illness

"It depends," said DePalo. "Is it a one-time problem or a chronic inhalation problem? And how quickly do you implement therapy?"

While this study tells us a little more about the lung damage from vaping, there's so much more we don't know.

Because there are thousands of vaping formulations out there, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the culprit in these vaping illnesses and deaths.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.