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Montana doctor shows what vaping can do to the lungs

With recent vaping injuries and deaths in the headlines, MTN News stopped by Billings Clinic to speak to a pulmonologist to find out what is happening inside the body when someone vapes.

“So anytime you inhale something into your lungs, your lungs have an immune system inside of it just like the rest of your body. And so, if you were, for example, to get some kind of irritating material on your skin, your skin would turn red, it would be painful, it might itch, it might even open up the skin itself,” Billings Clinic doctor of osteopathy Daniel LoVerde said.

“That same inflammatory reaction can happen inside the lungs. And that’s really what we’re seeing with these new inhalational devices, and people inhaling substances that really they shouldn’t be inhaling at all,” he added.

The aerosol produced by vaping devices is so small that it is able to penetrate through all of the layers of the lung.

“Watch what happens when these different particle sizes get inhaled into the lungs,” said LoVerde, pointing to an X-ray. “In the bottom corner is what is called the alveoles. It’s the part of the lung where air and oxygen are actually exchanged within the blood.”

“And so, the larger particle gets stuck- and this is something like sawdust would be a thing to think about- gets stuck in the big airways of the lung. Middle-size particles get stuck in the middle-size airways. Vaping devices produce an aerosol that is so small that it gets all the way out to the very distal parts of the lung and causes severe immune reaction,” he continued.

That response causes severe reactions, and sometimes death.

“There have been some deaths , unfortunately, because of lung inflammation that’s so severe that the damage is irreparable. For the most part what we’re seeing is with high doses of steroids and time in the ICU these people are getting better, and they’re improving, but some of them we don’t know yet what the long-term effects are going to be for some of these folks,” LoVerde said.

“I would say don’t inhale anything that’s not air, putting anything in your lungs that’s not supposed to be there, just like putting anything in your body that’s not really supposed to be there has really potentially serious side effects and can really cause potentially irreversible damage, if not loss of life,” LoVerde said.

The ultimate message from LoVerde: Stop smoking or vaping. Montana has a dedicated quit line, The Montana Tobacco Quit-Line. 1-800-quit-now, or 1800-784-8669.

Montana’s first vaping-related death was reported earlier this month. In response, Gov. Steve Bullock imposed a ban on all flavored e-cigarette products in Montana. Vape shops sued to block the ban
, and a judge agreed, allowing sales to continue for now. A hearing on a permanent ban is scheduled for Oct. 30.

While public-health advocates are warning consumers to stay away from all vape products, the Centers for Disease Control says most people suffering from vape-related illnesses ingested black-market products laced with THC, an ingredient in marijuana.

Jenny Fick/KPAX