First vaping-related death confirmed in Pa.; investigation continues into lung illnesses

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed the state's first vaping-related death. 

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine says they are keeping the person's identity confidential. She says in addition to this first confirmed vaping death, they are looking into nine confirmed cases and a dozen likely cases of vaping-related illnesses.

"We've had tragically, a death; and these patients are almost all hospitalized and some in intensive care. They are very, very ill patients," Levine said. "What we do know about the vaping-associated lung disease is that there's no evidence that it's an infection. There are no infectious agents that are known. It seems to be a chemical injury."

Levine says the emphasis is on illegally bought cartridges containing THC, a component of marijuana. Levine says drug dealers put additional substances in them, and buyers have no way of knowing what else is in them.

"We have drug dealers throwing together various chemicals and solvents to dissolved marijuana and then slapping a label on it and selling it in the market," she said. 

"That's what people are vaping into their lungs. And that is associated with most of the cases."

She is urging people not to vape and says these cases have raised questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Is vaping itself something that is safe? And I think that that question is still being investigated," Levine said.