(CBS 5 INVESTIGATES) – The government is looking into an issue CBS 5 Investigates exposed last month – potentially contaminated THC that’s being smuggled over the border that might have caused people who vape to get sick and even die. Our investigation found that cartels are processing marijuana to extract the THC – the chemical compound that gets you high – and strip it down until it’s highly concentrated. That form of THC is known as “crude oil,” and it could be tainted with dangerous chemicals. The name comes from its color and consistency.

[WATCH: THC 'crude oil' smuggled over US-Mexico border by cartels]

“Most likely, this whole process is what adding to or causing all the injuries and deaths that are coming with vaping,” Detective Matt Shay of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office told us last month. “I have no doubt that you have concentrated forms of the different pesticides, nutrients [and] other chemicals that have been used on the marijuana.”

[ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION: CBS 5 Investigates exposes drug cartel's crude oil, possibly linked to vaping injuries]

[WATCH: Marijuana concentrate smuggled across border may be linked to vaping injuries]

THC processed here in the Valley was used in black-market vape cartridges that were sent all over the country. Back in May, Homeland Security Investigations was part of the team that made the first seizures of crude oil in the Arizona desert. That was shortly after the number of injuries and deaths attributed to vaping surged. The exact cause of those lung injuries has not been pinpointed.

[READ MORE: Breakthrough in CDC vaping illness investigation: Vitamin E acetate and THC may be to blame]

CBS 5 Investigates contacted several government entities, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency, sharing what we had found.

While the FDA said it cannot comment on the specifics of its inquiry, CBS 5 Investigates has confirmed that samples of the crude oil seized in the desert are being tested. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which also has seized crude oil, is taking steps to get its samples tested.


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