- A woman has the first-known case of “cobalt lung” from a marijuana vape, according to a new case study.
- The 49-year-old woman developed the rare condition in which metals including cobalt, lead, and aluminum get into the lungs and cause irreparable damage.
- The same metals were found in the woman’s vape pen juice when it was sent to a lab for testing.
- Doctors can prescribe a patient steroids to decrease chronic coughing and other symptoms and prevent further scarring, but there’s no way to reverse existing damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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A woman has the first-known case of “cobalt lung” from a marijuana vape, according to a new case study.
The report, published December 4 in The European Respiratory Journal, detailed the condition of one 49-year-old white woman who developed a rare condition where metals including cobalt, lead, and aluminum got into her lungs and caused irreparable damage. The same metals were found in her vape pen juice when it was sent to a lab for testing.
According to the authors of the case study, the woman had smoked cigarettes in her teens and twenties, but stopped after that. She also said she had been using a marijuana vape pen from the brand ZenPen for the past six months and had difficulty breathing as well as a chronic cough. Otherwise, the woman appeared healthy and said she had no other symptoms.
When the doctors took a closer look, they found “crackles” and scars in the woman’s lungs and diagnosed her with hard-metal pneumoconiosis, or cobalt lung. They also deemed the scarring they found on her lungs incurable.
“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. Rupal Shah, paper co-author and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco said in a statement.
The woman was only exposed to metals through her vape
But this study suggests vape devices can also lead to the potentially incurable condition, since the woman had no exposure to hard metals.
Previous research suggests heated vape devices may unintentionally release the metals they are made out of into vape liquids and get into people’s bodies when inhaled.
According to Shah, most people who sustain heavy-metal damage to their lungs may not even notice until the condition progresses to an irreparable state, like it did with this woman, leaving the lungs permanently damaged.
Doctors can prescribe a patient steroids to decrease chronic coughing and other symptoms and prevent further scarring, but there’s no way to reverse existing damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
People with scarred lungs should also discontinue vape or cigarette use, the authors said, which the woman did. They also gave her steroids to help with her symptoms, which she took for one year.
“We believe it is likely not just that this will happen again, but that it has happened already but not been recognized. One of our major reasons for publishing this case history is to inform our colleagues about the possible risks involved with vaping,” Dr. Kirk Jones, a clinical professor of pathology at UCSF and case study co-author, said in a statement.