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What are the Dangers of Toxic Contaminants in Cannabis Extracts?

Occasionally, chemical compounds are added to cannabis extracts that are used in vaporizers. Because they dilute the thick, gooey cannabis extract, some of these chemicals help to improve the efficiency of vaporization. Others are used to alter the look of the extract, for example, to make it appear unadulterated if a fluidizing agent has been employed to make the extract appear unadulterated.


Researchers from Portland State University got a sample of an unknown cannabis extract adulterant earlier this year and conducted an investigation. Because the person who gave this material (a contact in the cannabis sector) didn’t know exactly what it was, they were concerned enough about its contents that they asked for it to be tested. Over time, it was determined by the researchers that the adulterant contained pine rosin (or resin), a thick, sticky chemical extract that may be used to make cannabis concentrates appear denser and purer than they actually are.


Pine rosin vapors have been related to a condition known as occupational asthma, which can develop in workers who are exposed to a high level of chemical pollutants on a consistent basis. The inhalation of large amounts of pine rosin can cause severe internal damage to tissues in the respiratory system. This is especially true if the material containing the pine resin is eaten in vaporized form, as it almost certainly would be in this case.


This was an unexpected and distressing discovery, given that pine rosin is a highly problematic thickening factor for cannabis extracts, and it was a surprising and disturbing outcome.



An interesting point to note is that another sample of extract adulterant evaluated by the Portland State research team found high levels of Vitamin E acetate in it. This ingredient was implicated in the outbreak of vaporizing-related disease that claimed the lives of more than 50 people and sent more than 2,500 people to hospital emergency departments for treatment of severe lung ailments that occurred in 2019.


When taken orally, vitamin E acetate is a completely safe supplement to consume. However, when heated, evaporated, and inhaled, it becomes extremely hazardous. Vitamin E acetate has the potential to be extremely caustic to sensitive lung tissue, resulting in a serious and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction.


Pine resin and Vitamin E acetate are both extremely powerful substances to be around. Although these substances are considered safe for use inside of vape devices, they could pose a major hazard to consumer health if they are inadvertently swallowed. This problem is primarily caused by counterfeit vape pens that are obtained from illegal sources where there is no quality control monitoring in place.


“The two reasons we published were to warn people, to make regular users and the general public aware of the discovery, and also to put it on the radar of regulators and law enforcement,” explains Dr. Robert Strongin of Portland State University, who co-authored the article announcing the discovery in the April 2020 issue of Forensic Science International.


For some time, vitamin E acetate has been suspected of being utilized as an adulterant in cannabis extracts; however, this recent study gives the first indication that the fungus pine rosin is also being employed in goods intended for vaporization.



The presence of toxic compounds in extracts is a source of concern. However, in some cases, the compounds found in cannabis that exist naturally can be a source of concern.


When done incorrectly, dabbing exposes cannabis extracts to extreme heat, with temperatures frequently exceeding 800 or even 900 degrees Fahrenheit. This intense burst of heat has the potential to liberate large amounts of THC into the resultant vapor, resulting in a significantly more potent and rapid start of effects than before.


BHO, a typical extract used for dabbing, can include THC concentrations ranging from 80–90 percent, making it an excellent choice for medical marijuana patients. When these items are vaporized, large levels of THC are released; however, dabbing increases the strength of the vapor to an entirely new level.


The use of high temperatures when heating BHO can produce chemical changes in the extract that are detrimental to the human body’s ability to function.


Two potentially harmful consequences of high-temperature dabbing are methacrolein (MC) and benzene, which can be detected in trace amounts in the vapors emitted. These compounds are produced as a result of the breakdown of terpenes, which are commonly found in full-spectrum extracts of plants.


Although the entourage effect is still considered to be a theoretical concept, it is believed to increase the efficacy and potency of THC through a synergistic relationship between terpenes, which give various cannabis strains their distinct aromas. Terpenes are believed to increase the efficacy and potency of THC through a synergistic relationship known as the entourage effect. Even though cannabis extracts are naturally abundant with the terpenes found in cannabis, they are occasionally combined with a liquid solution that is particularly high in terpenes to boost the concentration even more.


Terpenes, on the other hand, can become hazardous when exposed to high temperatures. The most commonly occurring terpenes such as myrcene, limonene, and linalool have the potential to become significant emitters of MC and benzene if the environmental conditions are appropriate. Terpenes have an outstanding reputation in general (which is well-deserved), but when they undergo specific heat-induced transformations, their health-restoring properties are completely negated.


MC is a noxious irritant that has the potential to be toxic to the respiratory system, with both the throat and the lungs being particularly prone to injury. The presence of benzene, on the other hand, is a greater concern. Despite the fact that this chemical is a well-known carcinogen, the concentrated quantities emitted during high-temperature dabbing could be a considerable source of worry.


It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure their own safety.

Toxic contamination of cannabis products is a problem that can be solved by quality control and prudent business practices. Unfortunately, there will always be irresponsible cultivators, producers, and suppliers that will opt to cut corners rather than follow the rules.


The vast majority of these individuals work in the shadows of the black market environment. Nonetheless, the cannabis sector must prioritize customer safety above all else in order to prevent legal cultivators, producers, wholesalers, and retailers from being enticed to cut corners in the sake of profit. Instead of being resisted, strict regulation and monitoring should always be embraced.


However, risky and uneducated behavior on the part of consumers at the end of the supply chain is also a contributing factor to the problem.


Choosing recognized brands that sell their goods at registered dispensaries, whether in person or online, is the most trustworthy and safest approach for cannabis consumers to ensure they are obtaining reputable and safe products. As a general rule, fly-by-night operators and unlawful providers are looking for quick and cheap profits, and putting your faith in them to be responsible is a dumb decision in every circumstance.


According to current research, it is possible to dab while remaining safe as long as the vaporizing temperatures are carefully managed and do not surpass 750 degrees Fahrenheit. terpene breakdown appears to be more sluggish at temperatures below that threshold and does not appear to result in the production of unpleasant or dangerous compounds.


By adopting this strategy, users are required to check temperatures while dabbing and alter their behaviors if excessive heat is being produced. Those who fail to do so risk suffering significant long-term effects as a result of their actions.


Last but not least, it is everyone’s job to keep up to date on the latest trends and safe procedures in the cannabis industry, regardless of their position in the supply chain.