What is Lipoid Pneumonia and What Role is it Playing in the Recent Vape Related Health Scare?
To be honest, it’s very hard to know what to believe these days when it comes to vaping and the swath of sicknesses and even deaths that are now being attributed to this popular alternative to smoking.
There is no shortage of theories floating around that Big Tobacco, or Big Pharma, or some godawful amalgamation of the two has orchestrated either some sort of false flag operation or has somehow tainted the vaping market to cause this wave of ailing vapers. Shit, we definitely don’t put it past them, but there are people in the hospital right now, and people who were known to vape regularly – be it cannabis oil or nicotine - have died.
Those of us seeking real answers have been forced to withstand a bombardment of naïve and often misleading reporting on the subject while politicians from the POTUS down to local mayors are beginning to roll out indefinite bans on ALL vape products until somebody, somewhere figures out what is going on.
We’ve been told it could be faulty vape cart hardware. We’ve been told it could be the terpenes and flavors added to the oils and juices. We’ve been told it could be Vitamin E acetate. (a British bud cracked me up by saying, “Only Americans could find a way to die from vitamins.”) We’ve been told that vaporizing ANYTHING is potentially deadly…
The problem is that there is probably some truth and some falsehoods interwoven above, but it is all being blared 24/7 for the past couple of weeks by the mainstream media.
Though the exact root cause of these illnesses – if there is just one – has yet to be identified, there are certain things that we know biologically about both the human body and the cannabis plant that can help to more narrowly define the search for the truth.
A substantial number of the most recent illnesses and deaths being attributed to vaping share many if not all of the same symptoms as a known medical condition called Lipoid Pneumonia. Not only is this condition known in the healthcare community, it is known (or ought to be) in the cannabis community as it was the spark of a huge debate several years ago that led to many extractors reworking their SOPs and an evolution in the equipment and techniques used for the process.
The back and forth back in the day was in response to some rare and mostly anecdotal cases of people known to be daily dabbers being hospitalized with “collapsed lungs”, or what were likely variations of lipoid pneumonia. People who made and preferred to dab BHO went to war in chatrooms and comment sections with those that made and preferred water/bubble hash with both sides arguing that the other was responsible for the few cases that surfaced.
The thing is, although cannabis trichomes are technically lipids (technically amphiphilic phospholipids) they are very similar in composition to the mucus in our lungs, making it very easy to not only take in, but also to expel. Lipids are often thought of as fats, but like fats, not all lipids are the same.
Our lungs are, thankfully, very effective at expelling impurities, but they struggle with non-polar fats like triglycerides. Eventually, the mucus can't expel the non-polar fats and build-up begins to form.
So if you inhale vaporized nonpolar fats too often or in too large an amount your lungs cannot expel the non-polar fat. Your body’s amazing immune system eventually goes to work trying to blast apart the fat deposit in the lungs and that is where the failure is likely happening in many of these cases.
So far, there is no known “cure” to remove or breakdown those hardened fatty nodules. When they accumulate badly enough, the result is lipoid pneumonia.
Some triglycerides potentially responsible for lung failure include: mineral oil, baby oil, sesame oil, and MCT/coconut oil. You’re probably thinking, “Sweet! I don’t vape or dab any of those ridiculous ingredients.”
Are you sure? Willing to bet your life on it?
It is a scientific fact that using a non-polar fat as vape medium is a recipe for health problems.
You may have noticed that Vitamin E acetate is not on that list above, but it could certainly still be playing a role in our current health scare.
And it is a scare, but it is not a “crisis” or an “epidemic” – let’s keep things in perspective.
Doctors have seen many, many more cases of lipoid pneumonia from hippie chicks using sesame or coconut oil almost as a mouthwash to clean their teeth by way of “oil pulling” and accidentally inhaling some of the oil during the process. Seriously…
We need to take these initial medical reports with a grain of salt for that reason – this is uncharted territory. It is hard not to deal in conspiracy theories at this point but one angle that you ought to be cautious taking is that the “sudden” timing of these claims is suspicious. The more likely reality is that there have been more cases dating back longer than just the past few months that were simply not ever connected to shoddy vaping products.
And that is the most important message that we need to continue to convey – cannabis isn’t killing anybody. It never has and it never will.
Human greed is at the root of this issue, I guarantee it.
When states decide to tax and regulate cannabis there is always a disruption in the long-established street market and supply and demand get turbulent. Ironically, though, as “legal” markets stabilize more and more, prices tend to drop further and further as the Makers master their productivity and free market competition drives costs down. If you were used to making X amount of dollars on every vape cart you slanged, and suddenly the market value was half of that – you have a choice to make. You can either ramp up production to meet your desired bottom line, or you can cut corners to make your bottom line possible.
The way that many vape cart manufacturers are making ends meet in an increasingly competitive market is by cutting their product, using additives to stretch each gram into two. With the popularity of pre-filled vape carts came a ripe opportunity for fuckboys to do what fuckboys do and so it is no shock that they’d cut their hot dog water cannabis oil or basement vape juice with cheaper ingredients like MCT oil and/or Vitamin E acetate? These products were marketed directly to extractors, of course some of them used (are using?) it.
There is absolutely ZERO need for cutting cannabis oil for the purpose of vaporizing with anything other than terpenes. Terps will thin oil that is too thick to pull properly through an atomizer. If the oil is too thin to begin with and needs to be thickened, you fucked up somewhere in the process. Dumping triglycerides into it is lazy and maybe deadly.
By banning vape products, jurisdictions will give a green light to their black markets to offload an unknown amount of potentially tainted vape carts to a massive, eager, misinformed customer base.
These products play an important role for many medical marijuana patients who cannot tolerate smoke and prefer not to eat edibles. Taking that option away from them is the real crisis.
If you find a benefit from vaporizing your cannabis, it is more important than ever that you find a brand you can trust – like our friends at Optimal Genetics – and stay loyal to them. Also, invest in tobacco stocks, those assholes are cashing in on all of this confusion.