CHICAGO - Local health officials are urging Chicagoans to be extra careful after 16 patients in Wisconsin were hospitalized after they'd recently used vaping devices to consume waxes or oils containing THC, that's psycho-active ingredient found in marijuana.
Dr. Amanda Mathews at Rush University says just because the warning came from Milwaukee doesn't mean Chicago e-cigarette users should ignore it.
"This acute issue is really one more reason to be concerned and to highlight how little we know about what chemicals are in the e-cigarette devices and how harmful they could be, especially to youth," Dr. Mathews said.
She says a common misperception is e-cigarettes are harmless. While she says they're likely less risky than traditional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, ultra-fine particles, flavoring ingredients, and heavy metals which could be playing a role in these hospitalizations.
"The long-term health risks for e-cigarettes are still largely a question mark because the products are so new, we don't have the long-term follow up data to know," Dr. Mathews said.
Around 200 Americans have been treated for respiratory illnesses linked to excessive use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes, including this Texas teen who spent two weeks in the hospital with a collapsed lung.
"We need more federal regulation over these vaping products. Nobody's for sure what's in these products, or what they're putting in their bodies or how it might affect their health," U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) said.
Symptoms to look out for include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, anorexia, sharp chest pain, nausea and diarrhea
Another doctor says because of all the unknowns, using e-cigarettes is like inhaling a chemistry experiment. Keep in mind, this all comes the week after an Illinois man's death was linked to vaping.