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Rochester students help county health officials research effects of vaping

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A group of Lincoln Elementary eighth graders are researching the effects of vaping with Olmsted County health officials.

Throughout the past couple of years, vaping has become a public health crisis — especially in teens. In April 2019, Olmsted County raised the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.

Lincoln Elementary students have been experimenting the effects of vaping on zebra fish by dropping the juice into their tanks. These animals are the most rapidly growing model system for experiments because they're affected by chemicals more quickly than other lab animals. For example, 2 zebra fish can produce 300-500 embryos within two weeks.

In a round table meeting Tuesday afternoon, Lincoln students discussed the changes they saw in these fish, while highlighting developmental deformities and slow growth.

All students say their fish died, essentially disintegrating from the toxic substances in the vaping oil.

Lincoln K-8's principal is beaming about his students' discoveries.

"It's one of those goosebumps moments, where you see things connecting -where the students have that voice to change maybe public policy or maybe curriculum on a big scope of things, so it's really awesome," said Jim Sonju.

We spoke to one of the student researchers - who says he's amazed by the impact of these findings.

"I thought that this was just gonna be a small project, like just to learn about it," said eighth grader Cal Sonju. "I didn't think it was gonna get to full action, like actually helping with the impacts on the district and for research for the world."

Olmsted County Director of Public Health Services Graham Briggs says he wants to follow up with these students in a bigger laboratory.

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Maddy Wierus

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