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Santa Monica-Based Lab Targeted in New York Vaping Investigation

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By Jorge Casuso

September 10, 2019 -- A Santa Monica-based lab is being subpoenaed by New York health officials investigating a nationwide outbreak of mysterious vaping-related lung illnesses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Honey Cut Labs -- which manufactures and sells a dilutent thickener used in the underground THC vape market -- is one of three companies linked so far to the illness, which has sickened hundreds of people across the country and led to six deaths.

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“The rise in vaping-associated illnesses is a frightening public health phenomenon, and I am directing the Department of Health to take several actions to address this crisis," Cuomo said in a statement.

The actions include "starting an investigation into some of these companies that produce vaping substances to find out what’s in it," the Governor said.

The subpoenas were ordered after New York state's lab determined that the samples of thickeners obtained from the three companies are "nearly pure" vitamin E acetate, according to federal and state authorities.

The oil derived from vitamin E has been found in cannabis products collected from the ill patients across the country, including those who recently fell ill in New York, authorities said.

Recent searches for Honey Cut by the cannabis site Leafly indicate that the Santa Monica-based company vanished from the internet, according to a report Tuesday in Rolling Stone magazine.

The thickener, Honey Cut Diluting Agent, was available only by ordering online.

The origins of Honey Cut "are largely unknown, though the company is Santa Monica-based," according to the magazine.

A trademark application from March 2019 says “the contact name and address are hidden from the general public at the instruction of the applicant/owner.”

The California Secretary of State's Office website lists Honey Cut Labs LLC as a California Domestic Limited-Liability Company filed on March 11, 2019. The company's filing status is listed as "active."

The thickeners sold by the three companies subpoenaed were marketed "as a cheaper, safer alternative that does not negatively impact flavoring or odor of existing products," Cuomo's office said.

The other two companies being served are Floraplex Terpenes in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for its Uber Thick agent, and Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Massachusetts, for its Pure Diluent.

Other companies are likely to be ordered to provide samples during the course of the investigation, the Governor's office said.

More than 450 cases of vaping-associated illness have been reported in hospitals in 33 states and one territory, and the cases are growing in numbers, according to media reports.

The Centers for Disease Control said patients experience "shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, chest pain and weight loss.

"Symptoms worsen over time, and some patients need ventilators to breathe and intensive care," the CDC said.

"Some have been hospitalized for several weeks. The illness could be linked to permanent lung damage."

Joseph Allen, an environmental health scientist at Harvard University, said the spread of the illness is not surprising, especially among the young.

"When you have millions of kids inhaling this cocktail of chemicals that were never tested for inhalation safety, this type of headline is predictable, and also avoidable.” Allen told Popular Science magazine.

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