Pneumoconiosis consists of a set of lung diseases, produced by inhalation of dust and deposition of waste from it, both in the lungs and in the bronchi and lymph nodes. The case of asbestosis, generated by asbestos dust, or silicosis, which is very frequent in miners and other workers exposed to the release of very small particles of silica, is particularly well known.
Both coincide with another, known as hard metal pneumoconiosis, in which the vast majority of those affected by them are usually workers, whose job focuses on the handling of dust-releasing substances. These hard metals refer to a large number of materials, although all coincide in the presence of cobalt in their composition, hence this is the main culprit of the disease they produce. Precisely for this reason, the authors of a study recently published in the European Respiratory Journal were surprised to find that a patient, whose lungs had the marks typical of pneumoconiosis, had a profession totally alien to these materials. How could he have come to this situation? The person responsible, surprisingly, was in his pocket, because he was the vaporizer that he frequently used for the consumption of cannabis. And no, cannabis was not to blame. At least not this.
The lung tissue of patients with any form of pneumoconiosis is characterized by the presence of nodules, resulting from the sedimentation of immune cells, known as macrophages, loaded with dust. In addition, this defensive procedure leaves scars which, together with the nodules, can be easily seen on a chest plate or, more specifically, through the microscope.
Therefore, the doctors who treated this patient had no doubt as to what it was all about. However, they needed to know how it happened. When they found out about his habit of vaping, they asked to analyze the device he was using for it. When they turned it on and studied its emissions, they found that the steam released contained cobalt, as well as other toxic metals, such as nickel, aluminum, manganese, lead and chromium.
It is not the first study to find these harmful substances in the emissions of electronic cigarettes, but it is the only known study in which these devices are associated with the appearance of this disorder, recognized as an occupational disease. This drew the attention of its authors, hence they warned in a statement that perhaps there have been other similar cases and have not come to be recognized as such.
On the other hand, they recall that the research on vaping is less advanced than that carried out on tobacco and that this is the reason why it is known to have much less damage. But that does not mean that it does not lead to any. More and more studies are pointing to its dangers, from the moment to the short term. It will be necessary to wait a few years to have information beyond that; but, given the circumstances, it might not be good. And that’s something consumers need to be clear about before they start going around with the false peace of mind of doing something safe.