Science Lion Byte: Vaping Illness Outbreak Update – Jan. 31, 2020

***Science Lion Media will pause coverage on the vaping outbreak as the public health issue has plateaued and appears to be reaching a resolution. Thank you for heeding the advice of health professionals and communicators to protect yourselves and others from unnecessary harm***

Please refer to our previous publication for a comprehensive background of the vaping illness outbreak in the United States.

Here is a summary of the latest vaping-related lung illness information released by the CDC, as of January 21, 2019 at 1pm EST:

  • The CDC, as of December 4, 2019, has elected to only report hospitalized EVALI cases and related-deaths, regardless of hospitalization status. Non-hospitalized cases have been removed from previously reported case counts.                     
  • The number of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases has been reported to reach 2,711 nationwide. With California, Illinois, and Texas leading the nation in confirmed EVALI cases.
  • EVALI cases have now been reported in all 50 states of the United States, after Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported their first case of vaping-related lung injury on December 3, 2019. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands have reported cases, as well.
  • There have now been 60 confirmed deaths related to EVALI, with Texas reporting the youngest EVALI-related death of a 15 year-old.
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As of the most recent data collected from January 14, 2019, EVALI patient statistics are as follows:

  • Regarding hospitalization status, 95% of EVALI patients have been hospitalized; 5% have not.
  • 66% of patients are reported to be male.
  • The median age of patients is 24 years old, with an age range between 13 and 85 years old.
  • The median age of the deceased patients is 51 years old, with an age range between 15 and 75 years old.
  • Breakdown of patients by age group:
    15% of patients were under 18 years old
    37% were 18 to 24 years old
    24% were 25 to 34 years old
    24% were 35 years or older

 

 

The most complete information of patient product use, 3 months prior to symptom onset, reflects the following:

  • 82% reported using THC-containing products; 33% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • 57% reported using nicotine-containing products; 14% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
  • Younger EVALI patients (13-17 years of age) were significantly more likely to acquire THC-containing vape products only from informal sources (94%), versus 62% of older patients, 45 years of age and older.
  • Regarding nicotine-containing vape products, 42% of younger EVALI patients (13-17 years of age) acquired these products only from informal sources, versus 12% of older patients, 45 years of age and older.

Overall, 152 different THC-containing product brands were reported by EVALI patients, and of those products reported, *Dank Vapes was the most commonly reported product brand used by patients nationwide, although there are regional differences. This supports the premise that THC-containing products are heavily contributing to the EVALI outbreak, and that no one brand is solely responsible. Overall, these unregulated and off-branded products, in addition to their unconventional use, are suspected of undergirding the spread of this lung illness outbreak.

* Dank Vapes is a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products of unknown origin.

 

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On January 2, 2020, the FDA implemented a partial ban on vaping in the US, focused on ceasing the manufacture of unauthorized flavors which may appeal to under-age individuals. Additionally, President Trump has signed into law an amendment which nationally raises the smoking age from 18 to 21 years old.

Looking beyond the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has officially issued a ban on e-cigarettes, after the country reported its first confirmed EVALI case in a 16 year-old girl, on November 15, 2019.

The Philippines join roughly 30 other countries that have moved to issue a ban on e-cigarette products, including Brazil, India and Singapore. Indonesia is now strongly considering following suit of the Philippines by possibly issuing their own vaping ban to preempt the surfacing of EVALI cases in its country.

Canada is also experiencing an uptick in vaping cases with its 17th official EVALI case reported in the country, as of January 21, 2020.

 

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CDC Reports First U.S. Case of Human-to-Human Transmission of 2019 Novel (Wuhan) Coronavirus

On January 19, 2020, an initial reported outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus manifested in the city of Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province of China. Unfortunately, upwards of ten thousand cases of infection have been reported, with the death toll eclipsing 200, as of January 30, 2020.

As fears began to swell regarding the potential global implications of the virus, on the afternoon of January 30, the director of the World Health Organization officially declared a global emergency for the spreading Coronavirus, which had now begun leaking through national borders, worldwide, as travelers returned from the Chinese outbreak epicenter.

Although the first case of Coronavirus infection in the United States occurred on January 21 in the state of Washington, around 12:30pm ET on January 30, the CDC reported the first United States case of human-to-human transmission of the virus in Chicago, Illinois. As of that day, there have been 6 confirmed cases of infection and 92 unconfirmed, as they await the results of their screening.

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Although, there is heightened anxiety at this time surrounding the potential implications of the spreading virus, there is no need for panic. Rather, take the precautions that you would normally apply to protecting yourself from the spread of germs, and keep your immune system in optimum shape by eating nutritious foods, while limiting (the best you can) exposure to stressful environmental conditions.

For more details about this first case of transmission and the most recent commentary on the virus, click the CDC link below. Stay tuned for the latest information from Science Lion Media, as we monitor the progression of the global Coronavirus outbreak.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0130-coronavirus-spread.html

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Science Lion Byte: Vaping Illness Outbreak Update – Jan. 9, 2020

Please refer to our previous publication for a comprehensive background of the vaping illness outbreak in the United States.

Here is a summary of the latest vaping-related lung illness data released by the CDC, as of January 9, 2019 at 1pm EST:

  • The CDC, as of December 4, 2019, has elected to only report hospitalized EVALI cases and related-deaths, regardless of hospitalization status. Non-hospitalized cases have been removed from previously reported case counts.                     
  • The number of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases has been reported to reach 2,602 nationwide. With California, Illinois, and Texas leading the nation in confirmed EVALI cases.
  • EVALI cases have now been reported in all 50 states of the United States, after Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported their first case of vaping-related lung injury on December 3, 2019. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands have reported cases, as well.
  • There have now been 57 confirmed deaths related to EVALI. Among states reporting the most EVALI-related deaths are Illinois (5), Indiana (5), and California (4), with Texas reporting the youngest EVALI-related death of a 15 year-old, today.
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As of the most recent data collected from December 3, 2019, EVALI patient statistics are as follows:

  • Regarding hospitalization status, 95% of EVALI patients have been hospitalized; 5% have not.
  • 67% of patients are reported to be male.
  • Breakdown of patients by age group:
    16% of patients were under 18 years old
    38% were 18 to 24 years old
    24% were 25 to 34 years old
    23% were 35 years or older

 

 

The most complete information of patient product use, 3 months prior to symptom onset, reflects the following:

  • 80% reported using THC-containing products; 35% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • 54% reported using nicotine-containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
  • 40% reported both THC- and nicotine-containing product use.
  • 5% reported no THC- or nicotine-containing product use.

Overall, 152 different THC-containing product brands were reported by EVALI patients, and of those products reported, *Dank Vapes was the most commonly reported product brand used by patients nationwide, although there are regional differences. This supports the premise that THC-containing products are heavily contributing to the EVALI outbreak, and that no one brand is solely responsible. Overall, these unregulated and off-branded products, in addition to their unconventional use, are suspected of undergirding the spread of this lung illness outbreak.

* Dank Vapes is a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products of unknown origin.

 

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On January 2, 2020, the FDA implemented a partial ban on vaping in the US, focused on ceasing the manufacture of unauthorized flavors which may appeal to under-age individuals. Additionally, President Trump has signed into law an amendment which nationally raises the smoking age from 18 to 21 years old.

Looking beyond the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has officially issued a ban on e-cigarettes, after the country reported its first confirmed EVALI case in a 16 year-old girl, on November 15, 2019.

The Philippines join roughly 30 other countries that have moved to issue a ban on e-cigarette products, including Brazil, India and Singapore. Indonesia is now strongly considering following suit of the Philippines by possibly issuing their own vaping ban to preempt the surfacing of EVALI cases in its country.

Canada is also experiencing an uptick in vaping cases with its 15th official EVALI case reported in the country, as of January 2, 2020.

Take care and stay tuned for the next Science Lion Byte!

 

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Science Lion Byte: Vaping Illness Outbreak Update – Dec. 13, 2019

Please refer to our previous publication for a comprehensive background of the vaping illness outbreak in the United States.

Here is a summary of the latest vaping-related lung illness data released by the CDC, as of December 12, 2019 at 1pm EST:

  • As of December 4, 2019, CDC will only report hospitalized EVALI cases and EVALI deaths regardless of hospitalization status.                     
  • The number of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases has been reported to reach 2,409 nationwide, rising from 2,291 last week. California, Illinois, and Texas lead the nation in confirmed EVALI cases.
  • EVALI cases have now been reported in all 50 states of the United States, after Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported their first case of vaping-related lung injury on December 3, 2019. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands have reported cases, as well.
  • There have now been 52 confirmed deaths related to EVALI, rising from 48 last week. States reporting the most EVALI-related deaths are Illinois (5), Indiana (5), and California (4).
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As of December 3, 2019, EVALI patient statistics are as follows:

  • Regarding hospitalization status, 95% of EVALI patients have been hospitalized; 5% have not.
  • 67% of patients are reported to be male.
  • Breakdown of patients by age group:
    16% of patients were under 18 years old
    38% were 18 to 24 years old
    24% were 25 to 34 years old
    23% were 35 years or older

 

 

The most complete information of patient product use, 3 months prior to symptom onset, reflects the following:

  • 82% reported using THC-containing products; 35% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • 62% reported using nicotine-containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
  • 48% reported both THC- and nicotine-containing product use.
  • 4% reported no THC- or nicotine-containing product use.

Overall, 152 different THC-containing product brands were reported by EVALI patients, and of those products reported, *Dank Vapes was the most commonly reported product brand used by patients nationwide, although there are regional differences. This supports the premise that THC-containing products are heavily contributing to the EVALI outbreak, and that no one brand is solely responsible.

* Dank Vapes is a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products of unknown origin.

 

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Looking beyond the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has officially issued a ban on e-cigarettes, after the country reported its first confirmed EVALI case in a 16 year-old girl, on November 15, 2019.

The Philippines join roughly 30 other countries that have moved to issue a ban on e-cigarette products, including Brazil, India and Singapore. Indonesia is now strongly considering following suit of the Philippines by possibly issuing their own vaping ban to preempt the surfacing of EVALI cases in its country. President Trump of the United States is still contemplating an executive order to ban e-cigarettes; in particular, flavored e-cigarette products. In the meantime, a vaping bill which is currently being mulled over in congress, would strengthen restrictions against tobacco sales to youths and ban e-cigarette flavorings; this bill will be voted on early next year.

Canada is also experiencing an uptick in vaping cases with its 14th official EVALI case reported in the country, as of December 10, 2019.

Take care and stay tuned for the next Science Lion Byte!

 

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Science Lion Byte: Vaping Illness Outbreak Update – Dec. 6, 2019

Please refer to our previous publication for a comprehensive background of the vaping illness outbreak in the United States.

Here is a summary of the latest vaping-related lung illness data released by the CDC, as of December 5, 2019 at 1pm EST:

  • As of December 4, 2019, CDC will only report hospitalized EVALI cases and EVALI deaths regardless of hospitalization status. As a result, the CDC removed 175 non-hospitalized cases from previously reported national cases.                                                                   
  • The number of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases has been reported to reach 2,291 nationwide, rising from 2,116 last week. California, Illinois, and Texas lead the nation in confirmed EVALI cases.
  • EVALI cases have now been reported in all 50 states of the United States, after Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported their first case of vaping-related lung injury on December 3, 2019. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands have reported cases, as well.
  • There have now been 48 confirmed deaths related to EVALI, rising from 47 last week. States reporting the most EVALI-related deaths are Illinois (5), California (4), and Indiana (4).
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As of the most recent data set, EVALI patient statistics are as follows:

  • Regarding hospitalization status, 95% of EVALI patients have been hospitalized; 5% have not.
  • 68% of patients are reported to be male.
  • Breakdown of patients by age group:
    15% of patients were under 18 years old
    38% were 18 to 24 years old
    24% were 25 to 34 years old
    23% were 35 years or older

 

 

The most complete information of patient product use, 3 months prior to symptom onset, reflects the following:

  • 83% reported using THC-containing products; 35% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • 61% reported using nicotine-containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
  • 48% reported both THC- and nicotine-containing product use.
  • 4% reported no THC- or nicotine-containing product use.

 

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Looking beyond the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has officially issued a ban on e-cigarettes, after the country reported its first confirmed EVALI case in a 16 year-old girl, on November 15, 2019.

The Philippines join roughly 30 other countries that have moved to issue a ban on e-cigarette products, including Brazil, India and Singapore. Indonesia is now strongly considering following suit of the Philippines by possibly issuing their own vaping ban to preempt the surfacing of EVALI cases in its country. President Trump of the United States is still contemplating an executive order to ban e-cigarettes; in particular, flavored e-cigarette products.

Canada has also reported that they now have 13 official EVALI cases in its country with fears of more cases popping up in the future.

Take care and stay tuned for the next Science Lion Byte!

 

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Science Lion Featured Guest: Raven Hardy and Sickle Cell

Science Lion recently had the pleasure of having a PhD candidate, Raven Hardy, drop by to speak with us about her upcoming event for sickle cell advocacy. To preface awareness of this event and the cause behind it, she also shed some light on her journey through graduate school, in addition to how she became interested in sickle cell research.

Raven is a neuroscience PhD candidate at Emory University, working in the lab of Dr. Hyacinth, which is part of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. In particular, she looks at the profile of inflammation in sickle cell patients, and the impact that it may have on brain structure, and subsequently on cognitive deficiencies (dysfunction of the brain) and cell proliferation (cell division and growth).

Upon making these assessments, she observes how these effects track with age, from childhood to adulthood; these alterations of the brain appear to be culprits of the resulting strokes and neurological disorders that may manifest in sickle cell patients.

All of which are done in a mouse model that is humanized or genetically altered to mimic the expression of relevant human proteins in the brain. The purpose of humanizing in this case is to resemble as closely as possible what happens in a human brain, without having to use one.

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But how did Raven get here, in the first place, to do this kind of research? Many times, people draw inspiration and direction in life from tragedy, and this case stands true for Raven, as well. During her senior year of undergraduate studies, Raven’s sister, who herself lived with sickle cell, passed away at the age of 26 from brain death, extending from complications due to a preceding sickle cell crisis.  After managing to overcome that great loss and obtaining her degree, she began her unconventional path through graduate school.

Although she had a passion to learn more about sickle cell and its effects from a research standpoint, she initially entered a PhD program at Scripps Research Institute studying brain-related microorganisms called prions. She later transferred to Emory University, switching gears in her research, and focusing on brain imaging as it related to nutrition in predominately African American communities. However, her journey did not stop there.

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“Unfortunately, I had to leave that lab”, Raven reflected with a chuckle. “And as it would so have, I was able to join a lab that did sickle cell research, so I actually think that my path took a complete circle to get me right where I wanted to be.”

That lab would be her current research home with Dr. Hyacinth. “But I’m happy to be where I am”, she remarked with a smile on her face. “I feel as though when you’re meant to be somewhere you’ll end up there, and I think this is where I’m meant to be.”

So what is sickle cell disease? Sickle cell is a genetic blood disorder that can manifest itself if two parents carry the sickle cell trait. Within the context of the disease, red blood cells possess a “sickle-like” shape, inducing pain and inflammation – a response of immune cells – which can result in a “crisis event.” Unfortunately, these crisis events can lead to adverse outcomes such as stroke, or even death.

Sickle Cell Punnett Square
Punnett Square: This type of diagram outlines the possible combinations of alleles passed down from parents (alleles are variable forms of a given gene). Here we show what allele combinations correspond with which resulting phenotype (phenotype is the outward expression of genes – in other words, what we see!).

Bridging the conventional knowledge of the disease with what she is researching now in the neuroscience realm, Raven informs us that individuals with sickle cell can have high levels of behavioral and cognitive deficits. “So as far as blood is concerned, morbidities may stem from high levels of inflammation that induce the crisis (event) , and this inflammatory crisis may occur in the brain leading to different forms of brain damage.”

In addition to the amazing and intriguing research that she conducts in the lab, Raven really has a passion to advocate for closing the racial disparity gaps within health care, and of course in raising awareness of sickle cell disease, especially as it disproportionately impacts people of African descent.

“There is a lot of research and support for children with sickle cell, but when you reach adulthood and require a continuum of care, unfortunately it is not to the level where it should be”, Raven contends. “So, definitely there should be more physicians that are able to treat and manage individuals with sickle cell in crisis, and in general health.”

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Speaking of her endeavors in public health advocacy, this leads us to her current task of raising awareness of sickle cell in her local community by holding a “sickle cell gala” on her birthday, in honor of her late sister. The Dec. 6 art gala event includes a classy dinner at the Miller-Ward Alumni House in Atlanta, GA, and offers a social opportunity to network in a nurturing environment with other participating individuals. All proceeds toward the event will go to sickle cell causes.

If you would like to follow in Science Lion Media’s footsteps and donate to the cause of furthering sickle cell research and bettering the relevant public health policy, please visit her GoFundMe page. This way, she can allocate the funds to the most reputable organizations for maximum community impact. If you are interested in attending her art gala event, please reach out to Raven at blackbyrd1206@gmail.com for any remaining seats.

black-mom-and-baby

Be sure to check back soon for the uploaded, full podcast interview with Raven as the Science Lion Media team chopped it up with this outstanding young lady, who has personified perseverance in the face of an unconventional road to her PhD.

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Science Lion Byte: Vaping Illness Outbreak Update – Nov. 21, 2019

Please refer to our previous publication for a comprehensive background of the vaping illness outbreak in the United States.

Here is a summary of the latest vaping-related lung illness data released by the CDC, as of November 21, 2019 at 1pm EST:

  • The number of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases has been reported to reach 2,290 nationwide, rising from 2,172 last week. California, Illinois, and Texas lead the nation in confirmed EVALI cases.
  • EVALI cases have now been reported in all of the United States, with the exception of Alaska. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands have reported cases, as well.
  • There have now been 47 confirmed deaths related to EVALI, rising from 42 last week. States reporting the most EVALI-related deaths are Illinois (5), California (4), and Indiana (4).
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As of the most recent data set, EVALI patient statistics are as follows:

  • Regarding hospitalization status, 95% of EVALI patients have been hospitalized; 5% have not.
  • 68% of patients are reported to be male.
  • Breakdown of patients by age group:
    15% of patients were under 18 years old
    38% were 18 to 24 years old
    24% were 25 to 34 years old
    23% were 35 years or older

The most complete information of patient product use, 3 months prior to symptom onset, reflects the following:

  • 83% reported using THC-containing products; 35% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • 61% reported using nicotine-containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.
  • 48% reported both THC- and nicotine-containing product use.
  • 4% reported no THC- or nicotine-containing product use.

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Looking beyond the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines plans to issue an official ban on e-cigarettes, after the country reported its first confirmed EVALI case in a 16 year-old girl, on November 15, 2019.

The Philippines would join roughly 30 other countries that have moved to issue a ban on e-cigarette products, including Brazil, India and Singapore. President Trump of the United States is still contemplating an executive order to ban e-cigarettes; in particular, flavored e-cigarette products.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the CDC will not report new numbers next week, but expect an update around December 5.

Take care and stay tuned for the next Science Lion Byte!

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Smoking or Vaping, There’s No Escaping – UPDATED

Traditional smoking of cigarettes has become less appealing to the public over time, and there is still a significant segment of society that partakes in this activity. Some willingly view this activity as an outlet for stress relief, while others have acknowledged their addiction and are open to quitting their habit with an implemented program. As the dangers of smoking have become more exposed over time, a variety of quitting mechanisms have arisen from gum, to skin patches, to other forms of pharmaceutical interventions. Unfortunately, with the use of these options, there has only been a 10% success rate in quitting smoking.

In 2003 the first commercially available E-cig was created by Hon Lik in China, and in 2006 the E-cig was introduced to the U.S. market. Today, the most influential player in the E-cig market is Juul, a startup which after launching in 2015 captured 70% of the E-cig market within 3 years. The intention was to provide a “healthy cigarette” and as opposed to attaching itself to the stigma of smoking, E-cig usage was popularly dubbed “vaping”. 

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Instead of burning the nicotine-containing substance or other alternative, that main ingredient is suspended in a complex liquid which is heated to an aerosol for inhalation. Much contention has arisen over the effect heating may have on the ingredients, and whether enough reproducible research has been conducted on the health impacts of vaping. Over the course of marketing the product, a perception developed that this product could be used as a bridge to lead smokers to a non-smoking lifestyle, if desired. Unfortunately, controversy has struck, as a mysterious lung disorder initially described as “vaping associated pulmonary illness” (VAPI), and now reclassified as “E-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury” (EVALI) began impacting hundreds of vaping clients requiring them to be hospitalized, with over 3 dozen individuals dying from the symptoms, as of this post. Below is a list of states with some of the most EVALI-related cases, including some statistics from the current EVALI epidemic, as it has evolved over time:

CALIFORNIA

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  • In our previous issue, according to the CDC, as of September 24, 2019, there had been 805 confirmed and suspected vaping-related cases in the U.S. and U.S. territories. By November 13*, they saw that number jump to 2,172 cases. Pertaining to deaths related to vaping, as of October 2, there had been 17 deaths reported. As of this publication, that number has more than doubled to 42, with 4 of those deaths occurring in California. This state is among the top 3 states reporting vaping-related cases.
  • Regarding what is physiologically leading to this outcome, research has shone the spotlight on what appears to be an infiltration of certain immune cell types that typically don’t represent the quiescent lung environment, seemingly caused by vaping. 

ILLINOIS

A large body of water with a city in the background

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  • In addition to having one of the highest number of reported cases amongst reporting states for lung illness related to vaping, Illinois has 4 vaping-related deaths reported to the CDC. To determine if these cases are legitimately related to vaping, teams including state investigators, clinicians, and public health officials are organized to align their findings with a validated case definition. If possible, interviews are also conducted with the patient to establish confirmation of the case.
  • Based on the cases investigated so far, all patients were reported to have been vaping leading up to their hospitalization status. Additionally, most patients used THC-containing products or a combination of nicotine-containing and THC-containing products; one subset of patients only used nicotine-containing vaping products. No consistent evidence of infection has been associated with these cases.
  • CDC officials have recently revealed that vitamin E acetate may be an ingredient included in THC-containing E-cigs and vaping products, to serve as a thickening agent. Although vitamin E is safe to use as a cosmetic or dietary supplement, previous research suggests vitamin E acetate may interfere with normal lung function, when inhaled.
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INDIANA

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  • Indiana, a state with a high number of EVALI cases, shares the highest number of reported EVALI-related deaths which have risen to 4, as of this posting. Texas rounds out the top 3 reporting states for vaping-related cases, although it reported it’s first and only related-death in early October.
  • As of the latest statistics, 79% of total patients were under the age of 35 years old; 65% of patients were between the ages of 18 and 34. Roughly 70% of EVALI cases involved male patients, as of October 15, 2019. Alarmingly, 14% of patients were under 18 years old, as this product is prohibited for sale to minors. This implies that further enforcement of the law is needed.
  • The first reported double lung transplant surgery related to vaping was successfully conducted on a 17-year old boy from Michigan. Health officials declined to provide information on what the teen had vaped or how long he had been vaping. Regardless, the extent to which this vaping crisis has evolved and reared its ugly head continues to baffle and concern health care officials nationwide.

MINNESOTA

  • Minnesota is a moderately high reporting state as it pertains to lung illness cases; this includes 3 EVALI-related deaths being reported from this state, as of this posting.
  • Investigators are diligently working to uncover what may be the primary culprit in manifesting this mysterious lung illness, as this is still unknown. However, contrary to some E-cigarettes being marketed to contain zero percent nicotine, they have been found to contain the substance. The aerosolized liquids used in these vaping vectors typically contain:
  • Nicotine
  • Ultra-fine particles
  • Flavorings (such as diacetyl, which has been linked to serious lung disease)
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

Although many countries have long banned the import of E-cigarette products, more bans are now cascading down from the U.S. federal government and sweeping across the country. There is simply too much controversy around not only the marketing practices of E-cig manufacturers, but also the safety of the vape fillers themselves when heated and inhaled.

A similar dark cloud of uncertainty hovers over the hookah community, too, as similar arguments have been made regarding the safety of the activity. It is best advised to avoid E-cig use until more substantiated reviews and studies are conducted, regarding the concerns therein. And of course, it is best to avoid the habit of smoking altogether. Check back for the latest news and updates on the U.S. vaping outbreak, as we revise our coverage on a regular basis.

*This content has been updated, as of November 14, 2019, to provide you with the most current coverage of the EVALI outbreak in the U.S.

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Sour Milk: Caucasian Calcium Standards

For decades, the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and its subsidiaries have advocated for us to acquire our daily vitamin D and calcium requirements, in large part through dairy consumption. As an appropriate prelude to this article, check out ‘Milk, an udder mistake?’, for more background on food policy recommendations regarding dairy consumption. In any case, it’s safe to say that dairy products have become a staple food group in most of our lives, whether it’s cheese, ice cream, a bowl of cereal, or a plethora of other milk-based products.

A picture containing person, wall, indoor, woman

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With dairy products contributing to a significant portion of our daily calcium and vitamin D intake, that leaves a large proportion of American society in a conundrum of either having to deal with the inconvenient symptoms of lactose intolerance or consume fewer dairy products. 

With this seemingly binary decision, a public health concern arises regarding Hispanics and African-Americans being deficient in their acquisition of calcium and vitamin D. One solution to address deficiencies such as these has been to revise the WIC food packages by amending the eligible food items to accommodate better micronutrient supplementation. Although most WIC recipients are of Caucasian descent, Hispanics and African-Americans as a combined group make up the majority of program participants. So, the aim is to help provide this lower-income subset within these respective demographics with better food options. 

However, there seems to be an interesting paradox that has been uncovered by the research community over the last 20 years. Although African-Americans and Hispanics are historically recognized as deficient consumers of dairy with the lowest associated intake of calcium and vitamin D, it is known that these groups are still less predisposed to developing osteoporosis, versus Caucasians. 

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Although recommendations currently call for serum vitamin D levels (vitamin D circulating in the blood) between 20 and 50 ng/ml, black women actually displayed a lower hip fracture risk when they had less than the minimum recommended serum concentration; higher levels correlated with greater fracture risk. 

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Even more, there are correlations that infer a possible association between excess calcium intake for African American men and their alarming rate of U.S. metastatic prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American men have a 50% higher risk of developing prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease after diagnosis.

Within this compilation of most recent studies, there are a couple schools of thought that experience some overlap. This includes those that are against lactose consumption (dairy) but comply with current calcium and vitamin D intake guidelines via non-dairy sources, and then there are those that are both against dairy and advocate for lower daily recommendations of the respective micronutrients. 

A person posing for the camera

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For instance, one study showed that a low-lactose, high-calcium, high-vitamin D diet favors a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. The interpretation of this study’s results drew controversy, not so much for the suggestion that less dairy may be better, but for the maintenance of the high-calcium mantra.

One of the critics, Dr. Constance Hilliard, has a unique perspective that blends a historian background with a clinical research context, and she has deduced that many people of African-American descent have been evolutionarily and epigenetically adapted to thrive on a low-calcium, low-sodium diet, among other divergent aspects of their when compared to the U.S. dietary guidelines. 

A person smiling for the camera

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Dr. Constance Hilliard

This adaptation was acquired in West Africa before any appreciable movement of African populations to the western world, such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade (1500s-1800s) or before any pre-colonial, sea-faring expeditions by West African kingdoms (i.e. Mali Kingdom, led by Mansa Abu Bakari II, during the early 1300s). In Western Africa there has been a prevalence of Tsetse flies that have inhibited the sustenance of cattle grazing in this region, leading to calcium being sourced elsewhere, and in less abundance. According to Dr. Hilliard, these populations lived healthily on 200-400mg/day of calcium vs the 1000-1200mg/day U.S. recommendation.

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More specifically, this evolutionary pressure selected for a unique variant of TRPV6, a calcium channel responsible for dietary uptake of calcium. This channel variant is hypersensitive to calcium, requiring less than other variants which manifest in European haplotypes, for example. Dr. Hilliard suspects that the surplus of calcium in our diet due to guidelines that are set for Europeans and European-descendants, may be one of the major culprits behind the disparate prevalence of certain metastatic cancers, as this excess calcium may essentially be toxic to African Americans and other African-descended peoples.

Dr. Milton Mills

Another proponent of reducing dairy intake is Dr. Milton Mills, who has not only partaken in impassioned reviews and rebuttals regarding the seemingly misleading dietary guidelines but has also confronted the National Food board about the inherent racism that has manifested itself in the representation of the board, and subsequently in the health policies passed down to the public.

Dr. Mills, who also is a staunch advocate for veganism, has noted as a practicing physician that a wide variety of his patients’ symptoms which could normally be attributed to any number of disorders or diseases, have been alleviated by simply recommending removal of dairy from their diets. Depending on whether these patients are equally replacing the dairy with non-dairy supplementation would also provide more insight as to whether their positive response was solely attributed to reduced lactose intake or in conjunction with reduced calcium in their diets, as well.

Based on these findings, there seems to be growing evidence that our national dietary recommendations may need more diversification to fit the melting pot of America that this country has become. It is a sad prospect to suspect that consumers in their own best interest may be following guidelines that unbeknownst to them may have unintended consequences.  If you are interested in exploring non-dairy options to acquire your calcium and vitamin D necessities, be sure to reference this article for more information and sources.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Sour Milk- Caucasian Calcium Standards

For decades, the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and its subsidiaries have advocated for us to acquire our daily vitamin D and calcium requirements, in large part through dairy consumption. As an appropriate prelude to this article, check out ‘Milk, an udder mistake?’, for more background on food policy recommendations regarding dairy consumption. In any case, it’s safe to say that dairy products have become a staple food group in most of our lives, whether it’s cheese, ice cream, a bowl of cereal, or a plethora of other milk-based products.

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With dairy products contributing to a significant portion of our daily calcium and vitamin D intake, that leaves a large proportion of American society in a conundrum of either having to deal with the inconvenient symptoms of lactose intolerance or consume fewer dairy products. 

With this seemingly binary decision, a public health concern arises regarding Hispanics and African-Americans being deficient in their acquisition of calcium and vitamin D. One solution to address deficiencies such as these has been to revise the WIC food packages by amending the eligible food items to accommodate better micronutrient supplementation. Although most WIC recipients are of Caucasian descent, Hispanics and African-Americans as a combined group make up the majority of program participants. So, the aim is to help provide this lower-income subset within these respective demographics with better food options. 

However, there seems to be an interesting paradox that has been uncovered by the research community over the last 20 years. Although African-Americans and Hispanics are historically recognized as deficient consumers of dairy with the lowest associated intake of calcium and vitamin D, it is known that these groups are still less predisposed to developing osteoporosis, versus Caucasians. 

A picture containing indoor

Description automatically generated

Although recommendations currently call for serum vitamin D levels (vitamin D circulating in the blood) between 20 and 50 ng/ml, black women actually displayed a lower hip fracture risk when they had less than the minimum recommended serum concentration; higher levels correlated with greater fracture risk. 

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Even more, there are correlations that infer a possible association between excess calcium intake for African American men and their alarming rate of U.S. metastatic prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American men have a 50% higher risk of developing prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease after diagnosis.

Within this compilation of most recent studies, there are a couple schools of thought that experience some overlap. This includes those that are against lactose consumption (dairy) but comply with current calcium and vitamin D intake guidelines via non-dairy sources, and then there are those that are both against dairy and advocate for lower daily recommendations of the respective micronutrients. 

A person posing for the camera

Description automatically generated

For instance, one study showed that a low-lactose, high-calcium, high-vitamin D diet favors a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. The interpretation of this study’s results drew controversy, not so much for the suggestion that less dairy may be better, but for the maintenance of the high-calcium mantra.

One of the critics, Dr. Constance Hilliard, has a unique perspective that blends a historian background with a clinical research context, and she has deduced that many people of African-American descent have been evolutionarily and epigenetically adapted to thrive on a low-calcium, low-sodium diet, among other divergent aspects of their when compared to the U.S. dietary guidelines. 

A person smiling for the camera

Description automatically generated
Dr. Constance Hilliard

This adaptation was acquired in West Africa before any appreciable movement of African populations to the western world, such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade (1500s-1800s) or before any pre-colonial, sea-faring expeditions by West African kingdoms (i.e. Mali Kingdom, led by Mansa Abu Bakari II, during the early 1300s). In Western Africa there has been a prevalence of Tsetse flies that have inhibited the sustenance of cattle grazing in this region, leading to calcium being sourced elsewhere, and in less abundance. According to Dr. Hilliard, these populations lived healthily on 200-400mg/day of calcium vs the 1000-1200mg/day U.S. recommendation.

Advertisements

More specifically, this evolutionary pressure selected for a unique variant of TRPV6, a calcium channel responsible for dietary uptake of calcium. This channel variant is hypersensitive to calcium, requiring less than other variants which manifest in European haplotypes, for example. Dr. Hilliard suspects that the surplus of calcium in our diet due to guidelines that are set for Europeans and European-descendants, may be one of the major culprits behind the disparate prevalence of certain metastatic cancers, as this excess calcium may essentially be toxic to African Americans and other African-descended peoples.

Dr. Milton Mills

Another proponent of reducing dairy intake is Dr. Milton Mills, who has not only partaken in impassioned reviews and rebuttals regarding the seemingly misleading dietary guidelines but has also confronted the National Food board about the inherent racism that has manifested itself in the representation of the board, and subsequently in the health policies passed down to the public.

Dr. Mills, who also is a staunch advocate for veganism, has noted as a practicing physician that a wide variety of his patients’ symptoms which could normally be attributed to any number of disorders or diseases, have been alleviated by simply recommending removal of dairy from their diets. Depending on whether these patients are equally replacing the dairy with non-dairy supplementation would also provide more insight as to whether their positive response was solely attributed to reduced lactose intake or in conjunction with reduced calcium in their diets, as well.

Based on these findings, there seems to be growing evidence that our national dietary recommendations may need more diversification to fit the melting pot of America that this country has become. It is a sad prospect to suspect that consumers in their own best interest may be following guidelines that unbeknownst to them may have unintended consequences.  If you are interested in exploring non-dairy options to acquire your calcium and vitamin D necessities, be sure to reference this article for more information and sources.

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!