Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The number of deaths remained stable nationwide in an outbreak of vaping-related lung illness linked to tainted THC vapes, federal health investigators said this week.
Meanwhile, massive raids of illegal cannabis shops in Los Angeles showed adulterated agents in most of the illicit vapes seized by law enforcement.
The number of vaping deaths nationally remained steady at 60 in 27 states, while the number of cases of hospitalized patients climbed slightly to 2,711, up 43 from 2,668 reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
THC vapes tainted with underground cutting ingredient vitamin E acetate have been linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, or EVALI, the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
The outbreak still is under investigation, and health officials still say there could be more than one cause of the disease.
Federal health agencies have warned people not to use THC vaping products acquired from illicit or informal sources.
Adulterated vapes seized
On Monday, California officials announced that large numbers of tainted THC vapes had been confiscated in December raids of illegal pop-up cannabis sellers in Los Angeles.
California's Bureau of Cannabis Control seized more than 10,000 illegal vape pens during a three-day raid. Authorities arrested 125 people and seized more than 2 tons of cannabis and cannabis products worth more than $10 million, as well as 11 illegal guns, the agency said.
"The prevalence of dirty and dangerous vape pens at unlicensed cannabis stores demonstrates how important it is for consumers to purchase cannabis goods from licensed retailers, which are required to sell products that meet state testing and labeling standards," bureau chief Lori Ajax in a statement.
Last week, the state announced emergency measures to require digital tracking via QC code for all licensed cannabis sellers and delivery personnel, including consumer delivery services.
"We urge consumers to scan the QR code to confirm that a business is licensed," Ajax said Monday.
Illegal vape cartridges were tested by the California Department of Public Health. Of those samples, 75 percent contained additives, including cutting agents such as vitamin E, vitamin E acetate, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and medium-chain triglycerides. In some samples, the vape cartridge was composed of more than 30 percent cutting agents.
Nearly all the samples were labeled with incorrect THC content, authorities said. While vape packages claimed they contained between 80 and 90 percent THC, some vape products seized from the unlicensed stores contained as little as 18 percent, the agency said.