MILWAUKEE – Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin officials reported eight cases of hospitalized teenagers with seriously damaged lungs to the Wisconsin Department Health Services in July.
According to a news release from CHW officials, state health officials were investigating the possible causes of these illnesses, but all patients reported vaping in the weeks and months prior to being hospitalized. While an exact cause was unknown, officials called the number of patients in such a short time frame concerning.
With the increase in use of e-cigarettes and vaping, parents and teens need to be aware of the potential danger, CHW officials said, noting that e-cigarette cartridges can contain toxic chemicals that have been shown to damage lungs. Because these products are still new, the long-term effects of use are not fully understood.
According to CHW officials, the symptoms that led to hospitalization included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough, and weight loss.
"The eight patients have had a variety of illnesses, some of which have been hospitalized in our intensive care unit and required significant therapy to help them breathe," said Dr. Michael Gutzeit, chief medical officer.
Patients showed improvement after treatment, however, long term effects were not known. Out of the eight initial patients, only one remained in the hospital on July 25.
This, as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services began their investigation into the root cause.
"They are investigating the cause, and perhaps, the origin of that -- whether it may be a singular batch, or whether there may be other factors involved," said Dr. Gutzeit.
It is believed prolonged or continued exposure to vaping chemicals could lead to more serious health issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a permanent condition which makes lungs less effective at transporting oxygen and is permanent, officials said.
Doctors at Children's Hospital encouraged parents to sit down with their children and discuss the health risks of vaping, saying doing so could save their life.
Meanwhile, Megan Cordova, executive director of the American Lung Association Wisconsin issued this statement:
"Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, one of the nation’s most widely-respected health care organizations, today released information of the hospitalization of eight teens for lung damage, which medical experts suspect is linked to e-cigarette use.
The American Lung Association has always held the position that e-cigarette use is NOT safe, especially by youth whose lungs are still developing. E-cigarettes contain chemicals, heavy metals and fine particulates. The candy and fruit-flavorings that so many youth find appealing also contain chemicals known to cause irreparable lung damage. These flavorings are designed to tempt kids and give the false impression that e-cigarettes are safe. Contrary to what the industry would have them believe, e-cigarettes are NOT SIMPLY HARMLESS WATER VAPOR.
Wisconsin had made enormous strides in reducing smoking rates but now faces a new generation of nicotine addiction among our youth. We call on lawmakers to act swiftly to enact laws to turn the tide on this growing epidemic – raising the legal purchase of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to 21, adding e-cigarettes to the states smoke free air law and taxing e-cigarettes the same as regular combustible cigarettes."