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Blog 丨 2022.06.14

Why Heavy Metal-Free Becomes a Hot Topic in Cannabis Vape Industry?

Since the popularity and consumption rate of cannabis have increased tremendously, it has sparked a lot for the usage of cannabis vaporizers, making many entrepreneurs enthusiasts dive into vaporizer retailer business ventures. However, the demand for vaporizers transpires a mix of credible and uncredible vaporizer suppliers selling vaporizers that contain heavy metals that lead to significant health risk and potential environmental pollution, making the purity and quality of most cannabis products in the market are greatly compromised.

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Many people who produce and consume the product are not aware of what heavy metal in samples and how these heavy metals are produced in certain steps. Firstly, as demand for cannabis products continues to rise, the long-term use of pesticides by growers results in heavy metal residues both in the cannabis itself and in the soil. And when new cannabis is grown in the same soil, it is inevitably contaminated with heavy metals. Secondly, some vaporizer manufacturers and retailers don’t care about whether the quality of processing equipment and goods is safe or not, they just dash into the profit pool without prioritizing vape device quality as long as it is produced and sold in exchange for profit. If the refining machine has bad quality, those heavy metals pollute cannabis oil straightly in this process. What’s more, if the vaporizer device is not good enough, heavy metals can easily get into the consumer’s body through cannabis oil during the atomization process or other accessory parts. These incidents led to some unethical vaporizer suppliers using poor processing and packaging techniques to fulfill the market demand without undergoing substantial quality control, lowering the quality of commercial cannabis.

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Thereby Cilicon’s team wants to advocate cannabis users to be highly selective towards cannabis vendors and only support the credible suppliers to eliminate uncredible ones in the cannabis industry for user safety purposes. Escalating the need for cannabis vaporizers to help cleanse the products by detecting and removing heavy metal contaminants detrimental to human health is not an option but a must action for all cannabis users!


How Does Heavy Metals Get into Cannabis?

Heavy metals are naturally found in the environment because they are present across the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. The anthropogenic activities of humans, like farming using inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, industrial pollution, water contamination, increase the concentration of heavy metals in the environment (Engwa et al.). Cannabis is one of the plants with unique characteristics that enables it to remove toxic elements from the soil, fertilizers, and media and accumulate them in the roots, stem, leaves, and flowers (Merck). According to the article “Heavy Metal Testing to Improve Cannabis Safety & Quality” written by Wieliczko, heavy metals get into cannabis in three different stages. The first stage is during the growth cycle. As indicated initially, cannabis is among the few plants that easily take up heavy metals from the soil. During growth, cannabis plants pick up metals from their environment while synthesizing proteins and fluids While the ability of cannabis to facilitate soil remediation may be favorable in some applications, it is also problematic to farmers because it leads to the harvesting of contaminated hemp. According to Chris Hudalla, the founder of ProVerde laboratories, who also serves as the chief scientific officer, soil amendments and fertilizers are the main sources of heavy metals that become toxic components of cannabis. Most of the time, heavy metals exist below acceptable limits in batch tests, but the continuous and repeated application leads to the accumulation of the contaminants beyond the limit in the plants.


Second, unless the producers are cautious, the equipment used is also known to be a major source from which cannabis plants draw contaminants. Producers should be very careful when choosing refining equipment. Hudalla asserts that most of the contamination found in cannabis content during lab tests occurs during industrial processing. The third way through which heavy metals enter cannabis is through post-processing handling. Cannabis atomization industry should be most alert to the possibility of heavy metal precipitation. When cannabis is packaged in a low-quality glasses oil tank, bad plastic mouthpiece and inadequate heating core, contaminants increase that lead heavy metals leach into the final product upon contact and even become more toxic after atomizing. Therefore, besides its soil remediation ability, cannabis production and handling escalate the rate of heavy metals in the products. It is a fundamental principle of a reliable cannabis brand to use the high-quality vaporizer as a product carrier without the risk of heavy metal precipitation.


Can We Do Heavy Metal Testing?

Heavy metal testing can be done by any vaporizer manufacturers and individuals provided they have the proper lab tools to assess the quality and safety of cannabis. The heavy metal testing process is aimed at identifying the presence and level of contaminants in cannabis that may make the products unfit for human consumption (IFS Laboratories). Heavy metals refer to chemical elements with a specific density five times or more the gravity of water (Eurofins). The metals are abundant at the earth’s crust and readily available in farm soil (Eurofins). The key metals of interest in cannabis include Arsenic (As), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), and cadmium (Cd) (LaJeunesse). Testing heavy metals in cannabis is significant due to multiple reasons. First, heavy metal testing is essential in determining if the cannabis products for human consumption are pure or not (Encore Labs). An impure cannabis product is that which has come into contact with potentially hazardous materials at some point in the growing and manufacturing processes. Second, knowledge of the quality of cannabis is beneficial to consumers whose health would otherwise be compromised by the elements. Nate Seltenrich, who is an expert of environmentalist even states that impure cannabis is considered a low-quality product because any heavy metal component within it, even in small concentrations, is harmful to human health and must be avoided. Cannabis is one of the well-known plants for its unique physical characteristics that increases its ability to remediate contaminated sites, meaning it naturally soaks up toxic metals from fertilizers, soil, and other media, after which it accumulates them in the roots, flowers, stems, and leaves. If testing is not done, people are likely to consume impure cannabis with metals that can disrupt vital processes within the central nervous, reproductive, and pulmonary systems and body organs. please contact us for heavy mental test report.

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What Are the Current Regulations and Restrictions of Heavy Metals in Cannabis? 

Based on the diagram below, analytical testing in the cannabis and hemp industry is yet to catch up with the dynamism of the industry. Consequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not adequately involved in the regulatory process, meaning individual states control the quality of products consumed in their jurisdiction (Open Access Government). The main problem with the regulation of cannabis quality is that in most of the states where cannabis has been legalized, expertise to understand all the safety and toxicological issues in the production of cannabinoid products in the market is lacking (Open Access Government). Currently, there are many inconsistencies in the monitoring levels of elemental heavy metals in cannabis consumed in the American market (Open Access Government). Cannabis is legal in Arkansas for all uses. The concentration of Arsenic and Cadmium is capped at 0.200ppm while lead is 0.500ppm and mercury 0.100 (Merck). The regulation in Arkansas is identical to the one in California, apart from the fact that cannabis in California has separate regulations for cannabis for inhalable use and other uses (Merck). For other uses, both Cadmium and Lead levels are restricted at 0.500ppm while Arsenic is capped at 1.500ppm and Mercury at 3.000ppm (Merck). In the states of Connecticut and Ohio, cannabis for all uses can only have a concentration of 0.140 for Arsenic, 0.090 for Cadmium, and 0.290 FOR Lead and Mercury (Merck). The concentration level restriction in Hawaii is restricted at 10.000ppm for Arsenic, Cadmium 4.000ppm, Lead 6.000, and Mercury 2.000ppm (Merck). The all-use concentration for Louisiana and Virginia is similar to the requirement for extract in Montana, where Arsenic level should not exceed 10.000ppm, Cadmium 4.100ppm (Merck). However, Lead levels in Montana are restricted at 6.000ppm, while in Virginia and Louisiana, it is 10.000ppm (Merck). Mercury level Louisiana and Virginia are 0.500ppm while it is 2.000ppm in Montana (Merck). The restriction for extract cannabis in Montana is identical to the rules applicable in Vermont and Washington (Merck). Nevada and New Mexico also share the standards set for weed quality, which is Arsenic level at a maximum of 2.000ppm, Cadmium 0.820ppm, Lead 1.200, and Mercury 0.400ppm (Merck). New York state has a unique regulation, which restricts all heavy metal content at 0.2000ppm (Merck). The lack of proper federal government intervention in the cannabis regulation is the reason for the variation in the metal levels capped by states.

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Figure 1:  FDA Heavy metal restrictions on water & food (Intechopen)


What are the Methods of Testing Heavy Metals?

Based on “Cannabis Industry Journal” and other experts’ opinion, the presence of heavy metals content in cannabis and its products can be measured in three ways, which states below:


1. Atomic absorbance spectrometry (AAS)

AAS is a heavy metal testing technique that applies characteristic wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation from a given light source to detect elements in either liquid or solid samples.


2. Inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES)

ICP-OES is a technique in which lab technicians use plasma and a spectrometer to test the composition of heavy metals in a sample (Wieliczko).


3. Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) 

ICP-MS can be employed to determine the quantity of heavy metals, even at trace levels, in cannabis. A single quadrupole ICP-MS has six elemental compartments that encompass the sample introduction, interface, ion, inductively coupled plasma (ICP), a mass analyzer, and detector. From a laboratory perspective, ICP-MS is considered the best heavy metal testing technique out of the several options. Although the equipment and operating cost for the technique are expensive, the method is based on a multi-element technique, and it has a large analytical range. The technique involves simple sample preparation and uses low sample volume. Most importantly, the technique is based on high-resolution and tandem mass spectrometry (triple-quadrupole) instruments which provide a very high level of interference control.

Even though other ICP-OES and AAS also have unique properties that make them effective testing methods for heavy metals in cannabis, an analytical shift towards ICP-MS is occurring fast because of the multiple elements capability that enhances the simultaneous measurement of elements in a single analysis (Wilschefski and Baxter 117). In sum, ICP-MS is a more advanced heavy metal testing technique.


How To Say ‘No’ to Heavy Metal When You Vape?

It is undeniable that heavy metal concentration in cannabis is a public health concern due to the adverse health effects associated with the contaminants based on the information mentioned above in the research. The public is unaware of the rising toxicities in cannabis amidst an increase in consumption, and the worst part of the issue is the lack of concerted federal government effort to intervene. As the situation currently is, it is prudent to vape cannabis using a vaporizer purchased from a credible and certified retailer and manufacturer like Cilicon’s vape devices to reduce the chances of exposure to the contaminants. Cilicon collaborated with BelCosta Labs to test each vaporizer for heavy metals by using advanced ICP-MS heavy metal testing technology, and each vaporizer was certified. Cilicon prioritizes the product’s safety and its quality and vaping experiences of yours. All Cilicon products will go through the engineering phase by creating the mechanical and industrial design for the cannabis vapes, ensuring the success of its development from external look and design until the device’s internal structure. Even the mass production phase consists of the pre-production step to ensure quality control of the cannabis vapes adheres to the ISO guidelines and FDA safety standards. Cilicon’s team is committed to providing the best user safety vape devices with quality features and will never compromise with subpar quality vape devices. Customers can rest assured that every puff that you vape with Cilicon’s vaporizer is a safe and sound vaping journey with a touch of exclusivity!


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