Vitamin E may be linked to marijuana vaping illnesses

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Chicago — Public health officials said some of the marijuana products that recently sickened users across the country contained the same chemical. It’s a type of oil made from vitamin E. It’s harmless when used as a supplement or skin ointment, but apparently is not safe for inhaling while vaping.

At least two deaths are linked to vaping, the latest in Oregon. CBS News spoke to one young man who nearly died from vaping.

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“I’m getting better now that I’m off oxygen. When I first got here it was like a baby bear was on my chest,” said 18-year-old Adam Hergenreder.

When he got to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois, on Saturday, Hergenreder was feverish, vomiting and gasping for breath. From what doctors know of his case, vaping nearly killed him.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything else turning up in these cases,” said pulmonologist Stephen Amesbury. “We look for other potential causes but we haven’t been able to find anything else.”

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Hergenreder’s mother, Polly, drove him to the hospital. She told CBS News she thought her son might die. “The doctor said he would have died that night. His lungs would have collapsed and he would have died,” she said.

Hergenreder said he’d been vaping for two years, addicted, he said, to the buzz it gave him from nicotine and the high from marijuana or THC, its primary ingredient.

“I got it from a drug dealer or whatever,” Hergenreder said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified more than 200 cases like his nationwide, and the number is growing.

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