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Has a cinnamon eliquid caused hypersensitivity pneumonitis?

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Britney sang: “I'm addicted to you, don't you know that you're toxic?” It’s a mantra some sections of public health and the media would like to ram home. One incident, two stories - with the initial claims of popcorn lung having been roundly debunked the media is taking a new approach and now claim a man suffered from ecig-induced hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

The Seattle Times reports: “a 60-year-old man suffered an acute lung injury and was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis last year after vaping ‘red hot cinnamon’.” They have linked this to the story of a woman who, presenting no previous lung complaint, developed a chronic cough three months after taking up vaping. The doctors who placed her on a ventilator claim she is suffering from a similar “rare form of pneumonia after inhaling vapour from electronic cigarettes.”

The Times drags up the spectre of diacetyl again, quoting the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s risible investigation, as if this has some bearing on the case. “Known for its links to injuries and deaths of microwave-popcorn workers, diacetyl destroys the lungs’ tiniest airways, leading to scar-tissue build-up that blocks airflow.”

Doctor Farsalinos commented on the suggested “possible linkage between diacetyl and the patient’s condition, although diacetyl causes a different (and irreversible) disease. They did not present any analysis of the liquids used by the patient, to establish a link between diacetyl and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.”

Undeterred, the physician (Frank Drescher) who treated the 60-yr old man thinks: “I am certain this is an underreported diagnosis.” The medical practitioner believes that these two incidents highlight the potential for vaping to cause “severe lung injuries”.

The Times states: “Drescher and his colleague, Graham Atkins, who was also involved with the Vermont case, said they believe diacetyl may have played a role in their patient’s illness. They said the man first came to the hospital with weakness, chills and a cough. He was treated with antibiotics and went home three days later feeling normal. He returned a month later with the same symptoms, this time with a fever.”

Farsalinos responds: “The case report mentions that the patient had 2 episodes of such a reaction within 2 months. The episodes were attributed to e-cigarette use, but there is no information on whether the patient was using e-cigarettes for a long time before the first episode or between the two episodes. In both episodes, the condition was resolved without any reported long-term effects.”

As much as the paper would like you to believe that this is down to the evils of cinnamon and diacetyl should you be worried?

“The case could be associated with e-cigarette use,” explains Doctor Farsalinos, “if the patient was allergic to some components of the e-cigarette liquid. This could be presented as an episode of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.”

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a disease in which the lungs become inflamed from breathing in foreign substances, such as moulds, dusts, and chemicals. These substances also are known as antigens.”

The cinnamon linked to the man was not present in the woman’s vape.  She was enjoying MaddCatt’s Hawaiian Blast, a “tropical fruity mix with a touch of creaminess”. Doctors asserted that her lung imaging indicated she had inhaled something fatty or oil-based and diagnosed her with lipoid pneumonia.

There have been previous fears over cinnamon and lipoid pneumonia, both of which were addressed and debunked by Farsalinos. His testing into cinnamon can be read here and he discusses the results in the video below.

It is important to note that the Cinnamon-Cookies flavour was only cytotoxic at 100% concentration and that he affirms it is STILL 10 times less toxic than cigarette smoke. Britney is still better to carry on vaping rather than smoking, if she smoked. Don’t worry, Britney.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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