Federal health officials said they have identified the likely cause of a vaping-related lung disease that has made thousands sick and killed dozens. Investigators have discovered vitamin E acetate in the lung fluids of 29 people who said they became ill because of the inhalation of vapots, the Centers for Disease Control announced Friday. The oil was found on the "main site of injury" of these patients, said Anne Schuchat, deputy chief director of the CDC, at a press conference held on Friday.

To date, at least 39 people have died and more than 2,000 have fallen ill, according to the latest figures from the CDC. Although vitamin E acetate has long been suspected of being in charge, Friday's announcement is the first time the CDC has publicly acknowledged that this is so. The extent of deaths related to the use of electronic cigarettes has led many municipalities and states to adopt various forms of vaping ban, ranging from the moratorium on the sale of flavored vape to the ban on electronic cigarettes imposed by San Francisco. The Trump administration has decided to ban flavored vaping products nationwide, with a planned rollout in the coming months.

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Schuchat stated that CDC laboratories had tested a wide variety of compounds, including other oils and distillates. Although she did not rule out the possibility that other oils make people sick, she described the lab results as a "breakthrough" in the investigation, with no other toxins having was detected in these patients.

The results of the 29 patients who found vitamin E acetate included both those who became ill and who healed, and those who died. THC was also found in 23 of them.

Vitamin E acetate is found in both foods and cosmetics, especially topical creams. Ingested or deposited on the skin, the oil is harmless. However, inhaled, it damages the lungs and causes symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain, as well as high levels of coma and death.

Investigations in recent months have revealed that manufacturers of illegal cannabis cartridges use oil as a cutting agent or as an additive to fill black market cartridges. At least one of the victims who fell ill said they had bought a cartridge at a legal cannabis clinic. In some cases, oils made up the bulk of the oil contained in these cartridges

This is a last-minute story and will be updated with the latest developments.

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