Doctors still aren't sure exactly what has caused a spate of vaping-related deaths and illnesses around the country—but they know it is doing horrific damage to people's lungs. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say tests of lung tissue from 17 patients show a pattern of injury that looks like "toxic chemical exposure" of the kind seen in victims of chemical weapon attacks or industrial accidents. "They look like the kind of change you would expect to see in an unfortunate worker in an industrial accident where a big barrel of toxic chemicals spills, and that person is exposed to toxic fumes and there is a chemical burn in the airway," surgical pathologist Brandon T. Larsen tells the New York Times. Two of the lung tissue samples came from patients who died.
In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic doctors say that contrary to a study released early last month, they found no evidence that the lung damage was caused by lipoid pneumonia, which can occur when oils are inhaled into the lungs, Reuters reports. Researchers earlier suspected THC oils were to blame, but "maybe we need to look more closely at the chemical compounds, and not just oils, but the chemical constituents, to figure out which ones are injurious," Larsen says. He says that in patients with vaping-related lung illness, their lungs and airways have been "torched." Larsen says some patients "will not recover and will end up dying," while others are likely to suffer chronic respiratory problems. (A scary find was made in bootleg vapes.)