First Vape User Diagnosed With Incurable ‘Cobalt Lung’ From E-Cigarettes, Usually Only Found In Metal Workers
A woman was diagnosed with permanent lung damage that is usually found in industrial metal workers, and the cause was vaping e-cigarettes. The woman is believed to be the first case of the incurable condition by e-cigarettes.
A vaper has contracted a rare condition called “cobalt lung,” which is severe scarring of the lung. The medical term for the scarring is “hard-metal pneumoconiosis.” Usually, victims of the health condition are industrial workers who work with hard metals such as cobalt and tungsten. Workers who sharpen tools, polish diamonds, or make dental prosthetics have been the most at risk.
Damaged cells engulf other lung cells, which create giant cells. Cobalt lung is irreversible, incurable, and can cause lifetime pulmonary problems.
A report in the European Respiratory Journal titled “Giant cell interstitial pneumonia secondary to cobalt exposure from e-cigarette use” documents what is said to be the first known case of cobalt lung caused by vaping.
An e-cigarette user in California was diagnosed with severe damage to her lung tissue, and medical experts believe the scarring was caused by the heating up of the metal coils of e-cigs.
“This patient did not have any known exposure to hard metal, so we identified the use of an e-cigarette as a possible cause,” said case report co-author Dr. Kirk Jones, a professor of pathology at the University of California, San Francisco.
“It has a distinctive and unusual appearance that is not observed in other diseases,” Dr. Jones said of cobalt lung. “When we diagnose it, we are looking for occupational exposure to metal dust or vapor, usually cobalt, as a cause.”
The 49-year-old victim was a dog walker and had no exposure to hard metals, but she did vape. The woman said she started using a ZenPen brand vape pen six months before getting sick.
Researchers tested the e-liquid residue and not only discovered cobalt but other toxic metals, including nickel, aluminum, manganese, lead, and chromium. The patient said she used the pen with cannabis oil.
The authors of the scientific paper hypothesize that vaping marijuana may enhance the risks of cobalt young because the metal coils need to reach a higher temperature to aerosolize the THC.
Dr. Rupal Shah, who was part of the research team, said: “This is the first known case of a metal-induced toxicity in the lung that has followed from vaping, and it has resulted in long-term, probably permanent, scarring of the patient’s lungs.”
Dr. Shah added that cobalt lung is likely “only a rare subset of people exposed to cobalt.” However, he warned that “the problem is that the inflammation caused by hard metal would not be apparent to people using e-cigarettes until the scarring has become irreversible, as it did with this patient.”
The patient experienced symptoms of shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Those same maladies were found in thousands of e-cigarette users that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have noticed, but this was the first to have cobalt lung. The CDC has named the mysterious nationwide lung illness associated with e-cigarettes as E-cigarette, or Vaping, product use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).