EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – A local lab believes they may have a key to preventing more of the vaping-related illnesses.
So far, more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related illnesses and at least 39 deaths have been reported across the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On Friday, the CDC announced they had a “very strong culprit” in the outbreak – and it’s something a local company says they have found an innovative way to eliminate from products.
Q-Cann labs in Edmond tests cannabis products from across the state for a number of issues, such as mold and pesticides.
Owner William Webb was in the medical testing field before diving into the world of cannabis – a move he says is actually pretty rare.
“Because the industry is kind of taboo,” Webb said.
Last Friday, when the CDC recognized vitamin E acetate as a suspect in vaping-related illnesses, he and his staff were already looking for ways to remove it from cannabis.
Vitamin E acetate is and always has been a natural component of cannabis and nicotine, but Webb says the danger now is increased by the concentration and vaping of it.
“Our lungs cannot clear it out as quickly as we’re injecting all this poison into our lungs, that’s why we’re having problems,” said Webb.
On Wednesday, Q-Cann submitted a patent for what they believe to be the first-of-its-kind method to remove the vitamin E acetate.
“Without harming any of your components like the terpenes or your cannabinoids, to keeping those safe as possible,” Webb said.
While the CDC is calling vitamin E acetate a “very strong culprit” in the outbreak, they’re not ruling out the possibility of more than one cause of these vaping-related illnesses.
But what could those be?
NBC News visited what’s considered to be one of the top marijuana testing facility labs in the world – CannaSafe Lab in Los Angeles. They tested seven THC cartridges from licensed dispensaries and six from the black market.
“The illicit carts had the most dangerous stuff in it, at much higher levels, and that dangerous stuff we found ended up being formaldehyde, other carcinogens, and carbon monoxide, and of course, hydrogen cyanide,” said Antonio Frazier with CannaSafe.
Another troubling discovery at CannaSafe – legal THC products were found to be safe when used at standard procedures, but when the heat was cranked up, a move popular among younger vape pen users, the puffs got bigger, and so did the risk.
“We noticed that there was carcinogens in, in not all of them, but most of them, even including the legal market cartridges,” said Aaron Riley with CannaSafe.
It’s a continuing search for answers as scientists scramble to find a solution.
“It’s our job to make sure they have a good safe product to use,” said Webb.
Q-Cann Labs in Edmond hopes to have their patent approved soon, so they can begin removing vitamin E acetate on a large scale by February. They want to put the product in disposable vape pens so it can’t be tampered with.