A popular (and welcome) take on the vaping situation is coming out to support medical consumers as a type of victim of the circumstances. There is a level of scientific understanding that is a necessary, and still incomplete, part of the discussion. For example, some of the dominant methods of lab testing for cannabis (plate culturing) are based on food safety protocols that are generations old, incorporates a system of understanding that is not the only means of testing or understanding (genetic sequencing, for instance) and, while we have learned a great deal mastering the current testing, we may be missing important safety concerns.
Another critical area of growth at hand is the clinical understanding of the implications of mainstream cannabis consumption. We have some information, but there is always more yet to learn. In order for Cannabis Medicine to catch up with the accomplishments and accolades of modern Medicine, we must overcome generations (and engrained systems) of academic road-blockages. Still more stands in the way of a well-oiled, safe cannabis-consuming culture, and that is reproducibility of clean product and the assurance that a consume is obtaining (and consuming) clean, safe product. These are solved, perhaps with regulatory oversight and technology, either within the public or private sectors.
For example, one of the elements of the current medical market that is still in need of close inspection and consideration is the potential contamination of vaporized products related to the construction materials of vapor technology itself. Devices are often made with metal solder which can contain and propel cadmium and/or other metals that are unhealthy for consumption. Similarly, heated plastics and other construction materials may be unsuitable as conduits for consumption by inhalation.
Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see public interest and discussion on this subject, which seems to touch on never common to many. Open-minded discussion, incorporating differing viewpoints will help us all grow to become a healthier and safer, cannabis-consuming culture.
Bacteria: Within facilities that lack appropriate oversight, any bacteria present during the manufacturing of a vaped product can be a source of risk for the consumer.
Fungus: Similarly, fungus can be a normal part of ambient air and life on earth, particularly around plants and soil. If production facilities do not have state-of-the-science monitoring or control mechanisms to limit mold, fungus can accumulate during the manufacturing process and can be transmitted to consumers.
Particles: Nicotine- or cannabis-containing products that are not produced in regulated facilities (home-grown and/or street-sold real or counterfeit products) may contain dangerous solvents, including solutions that contain lipid content that does not belong inside human lungs. Equally concerning, even in states with strict regulatory oversight over cannabis, the regulations may not cover particulate matter which may come into the consumer’s body from the containers that store tested cannabis products. For example, labs across the US have identified particles of vapor cartridge construction materials that become airborne during the heating process of vaporization. There is currently no testing standard for such circumstances. More, the sheer volume of particles emitted by a tool producing vapor is unregulated. With respect to its effects on the lungs, it is likely that there are meaningful differences (and potential risk differences) between a vaporizer which produces a small cloud of particles compared with one that produces a large, dense cloud.
Nicotine/E-liquids: Many nicotine vaporizers contain flavoring, coloring, preservative liquids that can be irritating to the lungs and breathing architecture. Non-nicotine liquid mixers can include sugary substances which promote dangerous growth of bacteria, inside the lungs.
Supervision: Street or home-produced products lack quality control measures to ensure that they are made safely, and/or contain safe ingredients, and are being delivered inside safe devices. In contrast, most FDA-overseen nicotine products and state-overseen cannabis production facilities limit many risk factors for currently-known threats to health
Risks on the Consumer Side of the Market:
Bacteria: Once purchased, products exposed to everyday life can acquire potentially dangerous bacteria after they are produced and sold. When used with poor maintenance practices, or by a consumer with hygiene practices that may add additional risk, bacterial infections can arise.
Fungus: Like bacteria exposure and potential infections, mold/fungus can accumulate after a vaping product is purchased. Good maintenance/cleansing practices help to prevent this risk, and appropriate hygiene around the consumption of vaping products typically minimizes this concern.
Particulate Matter: When using and re-using vaporizer tools (pens, vaporizer ovens, edibles), foreign particulate matter may break-off from cartridges, or may accidentally enter into products that were previously free of these contaminants. Many of the popular vaporizer cartridges, for example, seem to come from three facilities in China and are sold, worldwide, because of the attractive low price-point. Across the US, lab evidence has discovered evidence of small particles of the cartridges themselves (plastics, metals, other materials.) These particles can cause irritation to, or have toxic local effects on, the lungs. These reactions can certainly stimulate an inflammatory response which is sometimes equally uncomfortable as the offending irritation.
Coughing: Vaporizing a product which causes the user to cough excessively can risk the accidental aspiration of bacteria or particles from the mouth. These particles, if small enough, can cause inflammation or infection in the lungs.
Nicotine: In addition to the well-documented increased risk of cancer from the consumption of nicotine, this chemical is an irritant to the tissues with which it interacts, causing arterial wall constriction and thickening. It increases blood pressure and heart rate, promotes increased inflammation and suppresses normal immune system function. More, it also artificially elevates dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, with poorly understood consequences that are unlikely to be healthy for the lungs.
Maintenance: Vaporizing old or poorly-kept products may ignore the very real effects of deterioration of materials which may pose health concerns. A product which is not well-maintained or regularly cleaned may contain infectious particles, irritating particles, toxic elements which may also be found in a pocket or storage container (insecticides, animal poisons, other chemicals which may preserve or protect during production or travel)
Between the production and the consumer sides of the vaporization arena, individual differences and outside influences can have a tremendous impact on the experience of vapor. Someone with a history of lung disease may tolerate a very different product than someone without such a history. Similarly, someone with a weakened immune system may have a more difficult time healing from an average exposure (to an irritant or an infectious particle) than someone with different circumstances. These are not likely to explain a large incidence of illnesses, but in addition to the concerns above, they may help explain a smaller portion.
Some of the Medical Illnesses Potentially Associated with Vaping:
Typically this is related to the components of e-cigarettes: nicotine, propylene glycol/glycerol, ethylene glycol, any of >7000 flavorings, metals including tin, lead, nickel, chromium, manganese, and arsenic (have all been found in e-cigarette liquids), also nitrosamines common to tobacco, carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compounds, and phenolic compounds.
General Recommendations for Safer Consumption:
Use state-supervised companies, including dispensaries for cannabis-related vaporizer materials, and reputable nicotine suppliers
Convection vaporizer ovens that involve safe heating materials (ceramic, glass, quartz) are preferable to vaporizer cartridges.
Any means of detaching product from direct contact with a heat source is preferable. For example, stainless-steel containers that hold product, and are then placed into a heating chamber, is likely to be safer than placing product directly against heat.
A sneak peek at the latest news coming about solo sciences, inc!
Imagine a future of cannabis, where consumers have the control of purchase decisions, based on accurate information about the brand and products they may want, and tamper-proof, third-party verification that what we are buying is actually what the package says it is? (and then… consider that this concept applies to products beyond cannabis, from food to beauty products, toys, entertainment…)
“The world of cannabis is murky, unpredictable, and often not safe,” said Ashesh Shah, CEO and founder of solo sciences and a former CIA profiler. “As brands and governments are struggling to fight the illicit market, we created solo* to solve that problem by creating transparency into what cannabis providers are actually selling to consumers. solo* is designed to keep people out of the dark when it comes to what they’re consuming and putting into their bodies, so they feel secure and knowledgeable about the products they’re purchasing.”