Another two people in Minnesota have died of the vaping related lung illness officials have dubbed EVALI, the state’s health department reported Wednesday.
With these additional fatalities, the national death toll has now reached 30, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has only confirmed 26 so far.
The agency is scheduled to reveal its latest vaping illness and death statistics later on Thursday.
Across the US, more than 1,299 people have fallen ill with severe lung damage after vaping.
Health officials have homed their investigation in on THC pods believed to be behind the majority of the illnesses, but warn that they cannot yet rule out nicotine as a cause of the spate of illnesses.
Another two people have died of vaping-related illnesses in Minnesota, bringing the state’s total count to three and pushing the national death toll to 30 in 23 states (red)
Most of the people who have died of EVALI – 80 percent – have been under the age of the 35 but, in Minnesota, the two who recently died as well as a third, previous fatality, were all over 50.
‘We hope we do not have any more deaths linked to this investigation,’ said Minnesota epidemiologist Dr Ruth Lynfield, according to the Star Tribune.
‘However, based on what we know about other patients, the seriousness of the injuries and the fact that we continue to see new cases, it is possible we will have more deaths.’
So far, there are 73 probable or confirmed cases of EVALI in Minnesota and another 32 under review.
The two most recently reported deaths there occurred in September. One of the people had vaped a variety of products, including bootleg THC e-cigarettes products.
The other person could only confirm vaping nicotine but said the contents of other products they had used were ‘unknown.’ That person also suffered an underlying health condition, though it’s not clear what kind.
Echoing the CDC’s own warning, Dr Lynfield warned all Minnesotans against buying any vaping products off the street, precisely because the chemicals used in them are not known.
Last week, the CDC went a step further, recommending that ‘people refrain from using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products that contain nicotine.’
It’s also urged that no one should use vaping products that contain THC, which were used by 76 percent of those who developed lung illnesses.
Investigators continue to search for an explanation of what about and how e-cigarettes are triggering life-threatening lung damage.
Recent analysis of the lung tissue of people with EVALI suggested that toxic chemicals released when e-liquids are heated may be damaging lungs.
Others have theorized that oils, including the glycerin base used in many vaping products or vitamin E acetate may be triggering inflammation and injury.
In the meantime, officials say that people using nicotine e-cigarettes as quit aids should not go back to smoking combustible cigarette, but are particularly warning young people and pregnant women against vaping.
In an effort to stem illnesses and deaths, states including Washington, Rhode Island and New York are implementing bans on flavored e-cigarettes thought to entice youth and teenagers.
Massachusetts has gone a step further and banned the sale of all e-cigarettes.
A judge overturned Michigan’s attempt to ban flavored e-cigarettes on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Florida woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Juul, claiming that her son, Daniel Wakefield, had died at age 18 after using the companies popular products.
A number of other individuals, cities and states have sued the company for deceptive marketing that they claim got teens and youth hooked on Juuling.