The origin of pollutants in cannabis and cannabis products

The origin of pollutants in cannabis and cannabis products

"Dr. Strange Bud or as I learned not to be afraid of pesticides and to love them "

Most of us talk to your parents about cannabis at one time or another. I had the opportunity to talk openly to my parents about my cannabis use relatively soon. My mother had often expressed concerns about the consumption of this unregulated pharmaceutical substance: “How do you know what it contains? What if it is contaminated with a little angel powder or something else? ”Was she not? . I've always told him that cannabis is fine and that adding other drugs would cost more. The truth is, he really couldn't have known. This happened two decades before the emergence of private cannabis testing labs, which today are virtually uncountable in the United States and are also growing in many other countries.

It turns out that my mother's concern about quality control is not unfounded was. Although cannabis doping (adding other drugs) is not unknown, it is rare these days. Unfortunately, what is not uncommon is the contamination of cannabis with other substances by ignorance or accident. These pollutants are naturally different and also affect the human body.

Pollutants are defined as "an environmentally harmful or toxic substance that makes something impure". There are many definitions, but I like them because they also touch purity and poison. Contamination is anything that reduces the purity of a cannabis product or poisons or contaminates the product with its presence. The word pollutant can be used to describe foreign or unnatural substances. However, in this article, I will also include components of the natural origin cannabis product that affect the quality or value of the product.

It is important to consider the nature of the final product when defining what constitutes an ingredient of a cannabis product as a pollutant or not. When we infuse chocolate, the natural waxes in a cannabis extract cannot be considered a pollutant because the chocolate is mostly wax. Chlorophyll is an example of what is considered a contaminant in spreadable or vaporized extracts. Conversely, despite the high chlorophyll content, nobody has a problem with green sprouts or black hashish oil (as edible). This is reflected in the light color of most of the spreading extracts and the green color of whole cannabis flowers.

In general, we can divide the substances listed in this article into four categories: natural contaminants (such as plant chromophores and microbial contaminants) , Poisons (such as heavy metals, radionuclides and pesticides), additives and combustion products. In this article we will highlight some of the worst pollutants and some solutions.

Natural Pollutants: Microbes and Plant Products

Cannabis contains many natural microbes that are beneficial to the plant and not as should be considered dangerous to the plant. These microbes help fight plant pathogens. Cannabis is not a "disease-free" culture, a large number of pathogens can attack the plant. Plant pathogens can threaten flower tips such as gray mold (botrytis), white mold or pink rot and brown rot. These usually do not affect or infect people, except for people with weakened immune systems, such as B. People with AIDS or people receiving chemotherapy.

Consumers' microbial contamination concerns arise after harvest, storage and handling. This happens when plants are dead and worrying bacteria and fungi can infect a crop. Even if a crop is treated after infection after harvesting, dead bacteria and fungi are also a problem as they can lead to asthma, allergic reactions and mycotoxin-related health problems.

Poisons: heavy metals, pesticides and other unpleasant things

The greatest harm would undoubtedly come from the poison category. This category includes heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides, unsafe solvents. In most cases, these were added to the plant during growth or during the extraction process. This is usually the result of ignorance or indifference to the health and well-being of the end user.

Heavy metals are of concern because they can accumulate in the body until toxic levels are reached. One of his authors personally suffered from lead poisoning as a child and still lives with the results of this poisoning. Cannabis is a bioaccumulator that easily extracts heavy metals from the soil. Phosphate ions are the main carrier of heavy metal contamination, and hydroponic fertilizers are particularly susceptible to this type of contamination. McPartland and McKernan published that fertilizers are aimed at cannabis growers who have a remarkable problem with arsenic content. In addition, rockwool and other growth media can be contaminated.

Pesticide tests are considered more difficult than potency, microbial or heavy metal tests. In addition, its hidden use leaves consumers and regulators in the dark. One method that we used during inspections to determine which pesticides are being used is to visit the growers' shops near the farm. Negligent and unethical workers in the cannabis industry sell and use repackaged pesticides for garden or ornamental plants. In the pantheon of unethical practices, a company chose gold by marketing a product called Guardian (as "100% natural") that contained undisclosed abamectin. This jeopardized public health and resulted in costly withdrawals from various cannabis programs in the United States. In 2005, the first case of hospitalization due to the hidden use of abamectin pesticides was documented after a trimmer was exposed to contaminated cannabis. Unfortunately, the pesticide problem has skyrocketed since then. There have been several high-profile cases related to cannabis and pesticides, including fines of around $ 18,000 per emission, costly recalls, regulatory quarantine of thousands of plants, and consumer demand related to non-use. Development of miclobutanil.

The good news is that pesticide residues remain the focus of recent studies, standard groups and industry associations. This is at the heart of self-regulation, and organizations that implement best practices are starting to thrive in this industry. However, producers take the problem of pesticides seriously. The California-based International Cannabis Farmers Association is addressing the problem ... by providing guidelines, resources and research to farmers, regulators and the public. "Our work on standards and education paves the way for a world without cannabis and pesticides," said Kristin Nevedal of ICFA. The groups to contact are American Herbal Products Associate, ASTM (D37, Cannabis Committee) and patient-centered certification.

Fertilizers can also contaminate cannabis. Spraying plants with liquid fertilizer can lead to the formation of N-nitrosamines, which are strong carcinogens. Four police officers contracted lung histoplasmosis while picking marijuana plants that were likely fertilized with guano from birds contaminated with fungi. For an illegal cannabis harvest in Germany, guano may have been either unavailable or too expensive, which is why they used human manure that has been associated with outbreaks of viral hepatitis infections among cannabis users.


Additives are an interesting category on the list. These are deliberately applied to extracts to change viscosity, smell or taste, and sometimes to achieve subjective effects such as: B. increasing energy or providing relaxing effects. In a particularly dubious case, lead was actually added to the cannabis packaged for the illegal market in order to increase its weight and charge consumers a higher price.

Many additives have unknown or questionable health effects for the consumer Consumer. Terpenes are a common additive. They are generally considered safe when used in plants such as cannabis. However, if they are concentrated and consumed chronically, they can cause breathing problems, among other things. A dubious corporate product mainly contained fenchone as a terpene additive and ingredient, which is a terpene on the EPA's Toxic Watch List. Although terpenes are generally safe in small amounts, some organizations believe they can pose health risks in concentrated amounts.

Additives such as propylene glycol are also questionable and form carcinogens such as formaldehyde when overheated. The most common additives that we've seen in the manufacture of evaporative extracts are vegetable glycerin. This is one of the additional viscosity modifiers that can work in disposable vape pen cartridges. Little is known about the safety of inhaling vegetable glycerin, which leads us to our next category of combustion products.

Combustion products

The last category a is the combustion products. This is probably considered to be the least important and only relevant for smoked or grated products that are exposed to high temperatures and pyrolysis. This is probably the most unpredictable risk for consumers as cannabis differs from other agricultural products. For example, potatoes are generally not extracted to be smeared and inhaled.

Chemical reactions are often accelerated by temperature. For this reason, the chemical diversity of a cannabis product is greatly increased when it is burned on a swab or exposed to high temperatures. Apart from pesticides and heavy metals, this is problematic because substances that were harmless before pyrolysis can be dangerous in their burned form.

Solutions to reduce pollution damage / conclusion

There are many things a manufacturer or distributor can do to avoid these problems. To ensure that you have safe products, first make sure that the right tests have been performed. Tests must be carried out for finished and in-process products. For example, it is good practice to test a plant before extraction, a pure extract, a food, or any other product infused with the extract. It may seem overkill, but this method can help you determine where contamination can occur in the process if contamination is detected.

If you are a dealer, you can create incentives to go beyond the minimum inspection requirements, by allowing these manufacturers to get a higher price for safer products. Ultimately, this makes sense for both sides, since contamination can spread after packaging and more product is lost than was originally contaminated.

If you grow cannabis, you can also test to avoid contamination , and test everything that touches the plant. Soil tests can tell you whether you have lead or other heavy metals in the soil. Tests can also determine if the extraction machines or even their extraction solvents have been contaminated, preventing other batches from crawling together to share the same contaminants. There is nothing worse than disassembling and cleaning a full extraction machine just to let contaminated solvent through. Therefore, it needs to be cleaned again.

Even if your state or country doesn't regulate cannabis production, there are regulations that are easily accessible to other states or countries that you can follow to ensure that you follow best practices . Alternatively, there are best practices listed in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Cannabis Monograph and other sources.

Diluents can often be replaced with safe substances. If you need to make your oil less viscous for it to work in a vape pen, adding additional terpenes to cannabis can be a good solution if the amounts of additives are properly controlled and the right level of additives is used.

What can consumers do if they want to avoid pollutants like the ones listed here? First and foremost, choose cannabis that has been tested by a third party if possible. If you have a legal source of cannabis, you strongly prefer black market sources. When choosing a vape stick, avoid using very low viscosity oil. If an air bubble moves through it as quickly as vegetable oil, it is not pure. If you have to smoke cannabis, a water pipe reduces inhaled pesticides and combustion products. If you don't smoke, vaping is a good solution to inhale cannabis without producing combustion products. However, when vaporizing, make sure you are using the optimal temperature as low temperature vapors can cause other problems. In addition, cannabis testers have often found that hashish pesticides are significantly less common than extracts.

All types of traders and consumers can benefit from third-party certification. The more certifications and accreditations in general, the better. These bring products and services to stricter standards to higher standards and give consumers the ability to identify products that are certified to higher standards.

We do not intend to paint a grim picture of the future or the cannabis industry . Sometimes the first step is to get our house in order, to shed light on what we don't see every day. With the spread of cannabis testing laboratories and the data they generate, we all learn a lot about the industry and some bad habits are exposed to the light. If we learn and grow, there will certainly be growing pain, but it is a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

We can look at industry leaders and innovative companies to find out where the solution is for these problems. For example, Bedrocan is a company that grows cannabis under GMP conditions and produces a finished flower product that meets pharmaceutical standards. When we visited their facilities in the Netherlands, we were a little surprised to see an apparent shortage of staff. The periods of vegetative growth and full bloom are carried out with long periods without human contact with the plants. With such strict environmental controls, they have been able to literally standardize the plant product within cannabinoid levels of +/- 5% and without genetic drift for 20 years. Compared to the usual practice of checking plants for mold or pests on a daily basis, it makes a big difference in the procedures to achieve a similar goal.

As the industry progresses, we can use safe, qualitative high quality, well regulated, properly labeled and safe cannabis. Knowing when this will happen and where you live can be difficult to know, but it has become inevitable. One day, mothers will no longer have to worry about the cannabis their sons and daughters consume.

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