Giant cell interstitial pneumonia, more commonly known as cobalt lung or hard metal lung disease, is a type of lung disease typically only seen among industrial workers who are regularly exposed to hard metals, but a new case study indicates that people who “vape,” or use e-cigarettes, may also be at risk for this type of lung disease. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with giant cell interstitial pneumonia or another serious lung illness you believe to be related to vaping, contact a qualified e-cigarette injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. You may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer, in order to pursue the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries, lost wages and other damages.
This vaping and hard metal lung disease study comes amid increasingly concerns about the potential risk of pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette use. The case report highlights an investigation into a respiratory illness suffered by a 49-year-old woman who was initially believed to be part of the nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung injury, which has affected more than 2,000 people across the country. Upon closer examination, however, doctors found that some of the woman’s damaged lung cells had grown larger and overcome other cells, which is characteristic of hard metal lung illnesses like giant cell interstitial pneumonia.
Giant cell interstitial pneumonia is a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis caused by exposure to cobalt, tungsten carbide or other metal compounds. The disease is most commonly diagnosed among industrial workers exposed to hard metals on the job. However, the patient involved in the case study worked as a dog walker and reported no hard metal exposure. In order to determine the potential source of the lung illness then, the researchers examined the woman’s e-cigarette device, a ZenPen, and found significant levels of cobalt in the device’s e-liquid, as well as nickel, manganese, aluminum, chromium and lead. The researchers concluded that their finding supported “a diagnosis of giant cell interstitial pneumonia associated with inhaled cobalt from regular e-cigarette use.”
The findings reported in this case study are supported by a study published in February 2018, which examined the potential for metals to be transferred from the metallic coil that heats the e-liquid in e-cigarettes to the aerosol that the e-liquid produces when heated and that the user inhales. According to the researchers, “e-cigarettes are a relevant source of exposure to a wide variety of toxic metals including Cr (chromium), Ni (nickel), and Pb (lead) as well as to essential metals that are potentially toxic through inhalation such as Mn (manganese) and Zn (zinc).”
Another study published in the journal Human Pathology in 2016 highlighted three cases of giant cell interstitial pneumonia in patients who had not been exposed to hard metals or cobalt dust. According to the researchers’ conclusion, “The lack of appropriate inhalation history and negative analytical findings in the tissue from 2 of the 3 patients suggests that giant cell interstitial pneumonia is not limited to individuals with hard metal exposure, and other environmental factors may elicit the same histologic reaction.”
This case study will likely raise additional concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes and e-liquids, which have become increasingly popular among adults, teens and youth over the past several years. Once marketed as a safer alternative to traditional, combustible cigarettes, e-cigarette devices have recently been plagued by more than 2,300 reports of severe respiratory illness and nearly 50 deaths believed to be linked to the use of the additive vitamin E acetate in certain THC-containing devices. These products are subject to lax regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the formulations are not well studied, which makes these potentially toxic devices a growing public health concern.
The use of e-cigarettes has increased exponentially in recent years. In fact, over a seven-year period, the number of e-cigarettes users in the world more than quadrupled from seven million in 2011 to more than 40 million in 2018. E-cigarette devices are especially popular among teens and young adults who, because of the high levels of nicotine contained in e-cigarette devices, may have a lifetime of nicotine addiction ahead of them. As a result of these serious health risks, a number of nicotine addiction lawsuits are now being pursued against the makers of JUUL and other popular vaping devices, alleging that the products were illegally marketed to teens without proper warnings regarding the potential for users to suffer from nicotine addiction and other serious side effects.