This lung disease is normally only seen metal workers.
London – A man who smokes e-cigarettes has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable lung disease normally seen only in metal workers.
The cause is thought to be fumes from the metal coils that heat the vaping liquid.
Doctors warn that this is a newly discovered health risk for vapers.
Researchers say the condition, called hard-metal pneumoconiosis, creates a distinctive pattern of lung scarring leading to breathing difficulties and chronic coughing.
Though the scarring is irreversible, some patients may see mild improvement if the exposure stops and they take steroids. The disease is usually diagnosed in people working with cobalt or tungsten in jobs such as tool sharpening, diamond polishing or making dental prosthetics.
Scientists from the University of California in San Francisco say this is the first known case directly linked to vaping, but there are likely to be more as yet undiagnosed.
Tests on the patient’s e-cigarette found cobalt in its vapour, along with toxic metals nickel, aluminium, manganese, lead and chromium.
Previous studies have also found these metals in the vapour and experts believe they come from the heating coils rather than refill liquid.
Study author Professor Kirk Jones said: “This patient did not have any known exposure to hard metal so we identified the use of an e-cigarette as a possible cause.”
Team member Dr Rupal Shah added: “We think that only a rare subset of people exposed to cobalt
will have this reaction, but the problem is that the inflammation caused by hard metal would not be apparent to people using e-cigarettes until the scarring has become irreversible.”
Jones added: “It is our job to be concerned about the substances inhaled, particularly those substances that can bypass our usual defence mechanisms such as these ultra-fine mists. We believe it is likely not just that this will happen again, but that it has happened already.”
Professor Jorgen Vestbo, of the
University of Manchester and co-
author of the research published in the European Respiratory Journal,
said: “The medical profession as well
as the public should be concerned about a new wave of lung diseases caused by a product that is heavily promoted by the tobacco industry.”