Concern over vaping deaths

Concern over vaping deaths

Palaeontology Briefing E-cigarettes Jurassic turtle may have been trodden on by giant dinosaur Concern over vaping deaths A JURASSIC turtle seems ...

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Briefing E-cigarettes

Jurassic turtle may have been trodden on by giant dinosaur

Concern over vaping deaths

A JURASSIC turtle seems to have been squashed flat before it was fossilised, possibly because a giant dinosaur trod on it. The marine turtle fossil was found in 2007 in Switzerland and dates from about 155 million years ago. This was the late Jurassic period, when huge, long-necked sauropod dinosaurs dominated the land. Most turtles from the time are found in marine sediments, but this one was on land. “It’s like a tidal flat, where we mostly found dinosaur prints and tracks,” says palaeontologist Christian Püntener, who was employed by the Republic and Canton of the Jura in Switzerland to study local fossils. Finding the turtle there is significant, he says, because previously there was no hard evidence that Jurassic marine turtles ventured onto land. The turtle was on its back, which suggests it had become stuck on the tidal flat and died there, says Püntener. It isn’t known what it was doing there. One possibility is that it came ashore to lay eggs, as marine turtles do today, but it is unclear whether the animal was male or female. If the tidal flat was a nursery, there ought to be more turtle fossils. However, the most striking thing about the turtle is the state of the fossil. Most of it is unusually flat. Seen from the side, a big chunk of it is visibly lower than the rest in the rocks. This suggests a heavy weight crushed much of the shell. The rock layers in which it was found also contain many dinosaur footprints. The lowered part of the turtle fossil is 7.5 centimetres below the rest, which is about the depth of the dinosaur tracks, meaning a huge, long-necked sauropod may have trodden on the turtle’s corpse after its death (PaleorXiv, ❚

STATE governments in the US are cracking down on e-cigarettes, after three deaths were attributed to vapingrelated lung conditions. Here’s what you need to know. How did these deaths occur? In July, an Illinois resident developed a lung infection and died after using a vaping device that contained marijuana oil. Then, on 5 and 6 September, two deaths were confirmed in Oregon and Indiana involving vaping and respiratory problems. It isn’t clear how these problems led to the deaths. It could be that something either in the e-cigarette or the substances smoked through them caused inflammation of the lungs. Has anyone else been ill? The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that as of 6 September, 450 possible cases of vaping-related severe lung disease have been reported by 33 states. In addition

“We don’t know if the illnesses are due to ingredients, contaminants or the vaping devices” to three deaths, this multistate outbreak includes people who have reported coughs, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Some people turn up to hospital with symptoms that look like pneumonia, and have been put on ventilators or treated in intensive care units. Do we know whether these symptoms are caused by vaping? We aren’t certain, but there could be a connection. In each


Michael Marshall

Three people have died and hundreds have become seriously ill after vaping. Chelsea Whyte reports

of these cases, people reported using e-cigarettes. But no single product or substance has been associated with all the illnesses. Ann Thomas, a public health physician in Oregon, said in a statement that we don’t yet know the exact cause of these illnesses, or whether they are due to ingredients in the vaping liquid, contaminants or the devices themselves. One potential cause has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration. An oil derived from vitamin E was found in nearly all vaped cannabis samples from people who fell ill in New York. But that oil wasn’t found in tests of the nicotine products that had been used by others who also had lung problems after vaping. So are e-cigarettes dangerous? We simply don’t know. Some research has shown that vaping is less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes, but using e-cigarettes still carries risk. “Vaping exposes users to many different substances

E-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, but their risks are uncertain

for which we have little information about related harms – including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a statement. What is happening now? Public health departments in some US states are urging people to stop using any kind of vaping device immediately. On 4 September,  Michigan became the first US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes. Are these illnesses a concern in the UK? The UK regulates e-cigarettes that contain nicotine more tightly than the US. “Advice to discourage people from vaping legal, regulated e-liquids appears to be unwarranted and risks pushing people back to smoking,” said Sarah Jackson at University College London in a statement. ❚ 14 September 2019 | New Scientist | 7