The COVID-19 pandemic has taken up most of the headlines and social commentary of 2020, leaving the world with many questions about the characteristics and symptoms of this disease. And before that, the 2019 headline news carried another lung disease that is referred to by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as EVALI, an acronym for e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury.
However, when COVID-19 took center stage in early 2020, EVALI sufferers and the victims that have succumbed to its wrath were largely forgotten, despite the two diseases sharing a common feature. That is, they both have the potential to cause acute respiratory distress precipitated by an immune system that has run amok.
This similarity stems from a group of cells known as cytokines, made up of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins, which are released throughout the body by cells within the immune system. Cytokines function normally by managing the immune system and inflammation and producing blood cells and platelets. However, an overabundance of cytokines indicates that the body is no longer fighting a virus but rather attacking its own cells and tissues, a condition referred to as a cytokine storm. The nature of both diseases make EVALI and COVID-19 patients ripe for suffering a cytokine storm in their lungs, a lethal threat.
Regardless of these two diseases sharing a similar condition, doctors have disparate solutions to it: COVID-19 has scientists researching the source and destructive capabilities of this capricious disease and scrambling to produce adequate amounts of recent vaccines before hundreds of thousands more die from it, and EVALI has doctors investigating its chemical causes and realizing the cure may just be in the hands of the vaper.
What is EVALI?
EVALI sufferers may get pneumonia, inflammation of the tiny air sacs called alveoli, or fibrinous pneumonitis, which causes fibrin balls to form into a mesh within the alveoli and prevent blood flow and the exchange of gases necessary for breathing (either of these conditions is, of course, exacerbated in the event of a cytokine storm). It is believed that conditions such as these affect people who use vape products gotten from questionable sources that don’t engage in ethical sales practices or from products that contain an untraceable or untrustworthy combination of chemicals.
What causes EVALI?
A 2019 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reports its findings on the presence of the chemical vitamin E acetate, which is used as a thickener in illegal vaping products, in 48 of 51 patients with lung injury, showing evidence that vaping products containing vitamin E acetate may adversely affect the lungs. It should be noted that when used as a supplement, multivitamin, or skin cream ingredient, vitamin E acetate appears to pose no threat; however, inhaling vitamin E acetate has not been well studied, so little is understood about the effects.
Some EVALI patients’ lungs appear chemically burned, indicative of the presence of other harmful ingredients. For example, despite their FDA approval, vape oil ingredients used to flavor or deliver vape oil, including propylene glycol used as a thinning agent to offset the vape oil’s thickness, become toxic when heated and inhaled. Another additive, vegetable glycerin, a derivative of vegetable oil, is also FDA approved and commonly used in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. When ingested, both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized. When vaped, these additives are absorbed into the blood vessels of the lungs. It is the difference in their delivery, from ingestion to inhalation, that causes a change in their chemical makeup, which has called into question their safety and the safety of vaping oils that include these ingredients.
What about synthetic cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids also pose a threat. While acting on the same receptors as the phytocannabinoids from the hemp plant, synthetic cannabinoids are not natural but rather man-made chemicals that have also been found in illicit vaping products and sold by non-reputable sellers. The health damage depends on which synthetic cannabinoid is ingested, how much, and for how long.
A May 2020 study by University of Mississippi scientists who performed an analysis of hemp vaping products currently available on the market detected synthetic cannabinoids in four of the 25 products analyzed. The CDC contends on its website that the long-lasting effects of synthetic cannabinoids are unknown, and the possible health problems are numerous:
- Muscle damage
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Breathing issues
- Increased heart rate
- Heart attack
- Renal failure
Furthermore, the manufacture of synthetic cannabinoids is also unregulated; therefore, different products from the same label may have different chemicals, include different amounts of chemicals, or be tainted with toxins.
Why do companies include these impurities?
The recent prevalence of illegal vape products and less reputable companies that use additives like those mentioned above have prompted news articles to cite the dangers of using vape oil. But why are these additives even included?
It depends. In tobacco products, which frequently make the news, fillers can be used to reduce the cost of manufacturing the product. And sometimes filler is a quick solution to a chemical problem. That can be the case in the cannabis vape situation.
Marijuana remains stable and viscose as vape oil, but not all cannabis products do. Marijuana includes THC, and technically its chemical functional groups include fewer OH (or alcohols) which includes the characteristic of maintaining viscosity when heated. So, if you vape marijuana, the THC will remain an oil. But hemp-derived CBD, which includes a low percentage of THC and functional groups on the molecule that include more OH sets relative to the molecule’s properties including size, will not remain viscose and, instead, crystalize. Therefore, CBD vape oil on its own loses viscosity; it will crystallize as a chemical function of its OH and become unusable. To maintain viscosity, some companies put agents in CBD vape oil, like propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or vitamin E acetate, which while preserving fluidity, are damaging to the lungs. (ALL G CBD vapes have solved the formula problem without adding fillers for viscosity.)
In short: CBD vape oil requires another component to make it smokable, and if the wrong component is used, it can be dangerous. However, quality vaping products (like the ones you’ll find at ALL G Essentials) are available. But you need to do some research to find one that doesn’t contain harmful or toxic additives.
Finding something safe
If you buy oil, you need to make certain you know exactly what’s in it. ALL G’s vape oil is an all-natural product. Our vape contains NO FILLERS. In fact, ALL G’s is the only vape oil that has solved this problem and makes a pure, all-natural product that includes only the good stuff = a proprietary blend of cannabinoids and terpenes that contains no fillers and is non-crystallizing.
If vaping is not for you or you want to try other CBD products, there’s plenty to choose from. The differences lie in form and speed of efficacy:
- Edibles are ingested and therefore do not involve the lungs. They have an 8-10% bioavailability meaning that your body can absorb only a portion of the efficacious compound. Because it involves the trip through the digestive system before reaching the bloodstream, edibles take 30 minutes or longer to reach full effect, but it’s a steady effect that lasts longer.
- Sublingual products, like breath sprays and tinctures, have excellent bioavailability and are absorbed by the soft tissues of the mouth where they enter the bloodstream almost immediately.
- Dry vaping (dry-based flower) also has excellent bioavailability and takes effect within moments.
How to tell if a product is safe
Aside from researching reputable companies for safe products, you want to make sure the company you decide to buy CBD products from offers its customers a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which traces the product’s ingredients back to the plant. The COA is essentially the product’s laboratory test results and should include batch number, testing date, and potency demonstrated by the percentage of cannabinoids and terpenes present in the batch. Not only that, but a COA worth its weight will also report on what isn’t included in the product batch, like residual solvents, heavy metals, and/or pesticides. Don’t settle for anything less.
How to get the TRAYC app
While it’s really cool to be able to see exactly what’s in your product and how much etc., nothing beats TRAYC if you really want to see how every step in the production process works. ALL G offers the TRAYC app, which helps you learn from the farmers, formulators, extractors, and others along the production line how a plant becomes a product. It’s fun to use and easy to get. Check out Trayc.
EVALI is a frightening disease that may be as simple to prevent as doing a little research to make sure you’re purchasing safe vape products from a reputable CBD shop. Don’t let disreputable stores stop you from gaining all the natural health benefits CBD has to offer. If anything, let this information make you a more educated consumer, one who is vigilant in finding a brand that doesn’t use shoddy practices but strives to make the finest quality healing products on the market, complete with a COA that proves it.