Health & Wellness News

The Dangers of Contaminated Cannabis Concentrates & How to Avoid Them

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Last month, we investigated the issue of “clean cannabis”, alerting cannabis consumers to be aware of the potential contaminants, pesticides and other trace chemicals that can be left over from the cannabis growing and cultivation process.

Luckily for legalized states like California, cannabis testing has emerged as an important practice in cannabis distribution, with requirements and compliance levels being meticulous in testing for anything that could potentially be harmful to cannabis consumers. Unfortunately, not all cannabis markets have regulations or practices that are as clean as they should be.

Oov is now turning our attention to cannabis concentrates, and some of the health issues and concerns that emerged around this popular cannabis consumption method.

Potentially Harmful Concentrates Cause Concern 

When you use a concentrate, it’s exciting to have all that THC and CBD potency packed into a tiny product; but, while enjoying the concentrated cannabinoids, have you thought of how grow contaminants and pesticides are potentially concentrated in your products as well?

This is just one of the issues that comes up in the discourse on the possibility of dangerous cannabis concentrates and how contaminants and pesticides can be present within them in a concentrated manner.

In 2015, USC researchers conducted a study that looked at 57 samples of cannabis concentrates from the available medical dispensaries, and found that over 80% of the samples contained residual solvents and 40% contained pesticides as well as plant growth regulators (PGRs), which we highlighted in our The Fight for Clean Cannabis article.

Firms like Steep Hill Labs are conducting investigations into how low concentrates of contaminants and pesticides in flower can possibly result in higher concentrates in extractions. This was in response to concerns about contaminants in concentrates after legalized markets set their regulations. Steep Hill’s look into a range of samples within Oregon’s regulated market back in 2016 showed that 85% of the samples contained contaminants, enough to be concerning and raise awareness about the issue.

No doubt, the rising concern of contaminated concentrates alerted health-conscious California to nip this issue in the bud, with very strict testing requirements that distributors must abide by.

How Concentrates are Made: Solvent vs. Non-Solvent Extraction

When they first began gaining popularity, cannabis concentrates, like wax, shatter, and other names were created through an extraction process using Butane Hash Oil (BHO extraction). This method is a solvent-based method that garnered early criticism from both inside and outside the cannabis industry for its use of chemical solvents.

The cannabis industry has now been working towards providing more solvent-free extracts and concentrates, particularly emerging with products like rosin, which is a cannabis concentrate created by applying extreme pressure and heat. What results is a glass-like substance that contains all the cannabinoids of the flower, without the leaf itself.

Other solvent-free solutions include budder, which is like a whipped version of rosin; and the more avant-garde freeze dried hash oil products that use sub-zero temperatures in the process.

Carcinogenic Concentrates & Dabbing

When looking at the health issues surrounding concentrates, it’s important to have a general awareness of the issues and concerns surrounding dabbing as a method of cannabis intake.

A recent study conducted at Portland State University examined the potential for carcinogenic (cancer-producing) agents like benzene to be released through the dabbing process. This is where learning to understand research comes in. This study’s conditions heated cannabis concentrates to 500 degrees, which isn’t usually the level of heat used amongst most dabbers. These potentially harmful chemicals were only present when the concentrate was heated beyond 322 degrees. At the high temperatures investigated in the study, terpenoids can burn off and be replaced by toxins, that don’t produce any benefit. This is why cannabis connoisseurs recommend low-temperature control in dabbing so to preserve the terpenoids and prevent the release of potentially carcinogenic toxins.

While this is something to be aware of in the dialogue on cannabis concentrates, you can minimize your concern of harmful dabbing or concentrate use by limiting the temperature of heat applied, using temperature-controlled accessories, or use solvent-free concentrates only.

A Clean Future for Concentrates

Should you stay away from concentrates or dabbing? Definitely not. If anything, the concerns we have highlighted have pushed the cannabis industry to tighten up their standards to ensure that cannabis consumed is only promoting, not harming, overall health.

Dabbing clean concentrates helps you eliminate the flower aspect of the cannabis, so you’re only inhaling the compounds you want in the cannabis plant. You also need to only take one “hit” to experience the level of high you would experience by smoking a whole joint of flower. It’s often convenient and quick but does require a bit of a setup.

Cannabis concentrates can also be used orally though cannabis oils, which should be prepared with edible solvents like butter or oil if the intention is for it to be consumed in edibles.

The new regulations that emerged with the regulated recreational cannabis market in California are setting high standards that ensure products are tested for contaminants, pesticides and other potentially harmful growth regulators. While it makes cultivators and distributors take extreme measures to clean cannabis up, what results is a stronger industry and a pure product that helps people achieve optimal health.

Use Those Concentrates, With Care

When using cannabis concentrates be a conscious consumer, just as you are with your food, beauty products, and other consumer goods you source. If you’re taking something into your body, you deserve to know it’s safe and contaminant free so that in your pursuit of cannabis enlightenment, you don’t potentially risk your health.

Ensure that you are buying your cannabis concentrates from a reputable source who can tell you about how their concentrates are extracted and answer any questions regarding your concerns about concentrate safety.

Use concentrates safely and responsibly, both in the methods you use to consume like dabbing, and in understanding dosages. Concentrates pack a powerful punch, and keep in mind, “a little dab will do you!” Be sure you’re aware of potency levels of your concentrates before you imbibe. Most of all, enjoy and become an ambassador for clean cannabis by demonstrating your responsible sourcing and use of cannabis concentrates.


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