E-cigarettes have been linked to a rare form of lung scarring that is typically found in metal workers.
In a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers at the University of California San Francisco described the case of a 49-year-old woman who was diagnosed with permanent lung scarring after just six months of using a vape pen.
When researchers analyzed the vapor that her “ZenPen” was emitting with each puff, they found cobalt as well as other heavy metals, such as nickel, aluminum, and lead.
The researchers say they believe that metal dust is coming from the heating coils in the vape, rather than from the e-liquid.
Furthermore, marijuana pens may be especially dangerous because they heat liquids up to about 230º Celsius, while nicotine vapes only heat liquid to 110º to 185º C.
“Exposure to cobalt dust is extremely rare outside of a few specific industries,” said study co-author Dr. Rubal Shah.
“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.”
The woman was diagnosed with hard-metal pneumoconiosis, also called “cobalt lung.” The disease that occurs when damaged lung cells engulf other cells and form ‘giant’ cells called macrophages.
It can result in permanent lung scarring and symptoms such as breathing difficulties and chronic coughing. Cobalt lung has no cure, but some patients have mild improvement if they are treated with steroids and stop exposure to hard-metal dust.