By / March 19, 2024

Cannabis Vape Pens May Contain Lead and Other Toxic Metals

Vape pens have become a popular alternative to traditional cannabis consumption methods, often touted as a safer option. However, a growing body of research points to new risks associated with using vape pens. Recent studies by the American Chemical Society have revealed the presence of toxic metal nanoparticles in cannabis vaporizer liquids even before their first use, especially in black market products, which could have serious public health consequences.

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Cannabis Vape Pens Study Background

The vape pens study presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) spring conference in New Orleans on March 19, 2024, sheds light on the potential dangers associated with vaporizing cannabis using vape pens. While the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults are progressing in many places, including Canada, vaporization products are relatively new and there is still a lack of data on their safety.

Andrew Waye, leading the research program at the Office of Cannabis Science and Surveillance at Health Canada, emphasizes the importance of investigating unresolved safety issues of these products.

Research Methodology

For the study, a team led by Andrew Waye, in collaboration with Zuzana Gajdosechova from the Metrology Research Centre National Research Council of Canada, collected 41 samples of cannabis vaporizer liquids for use in vape pens. These samples came from both legal sources (Ontario Cannabis Store) and the illegal market (provided by Ontario Provincial Police). Mass spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy were used to analyze the metal content, providing visual confirmation of the presence of metal particles.

Vape Pens Study Findings

The analysis revealed the presence of 12 different metals in the tested vape pens liquids. Some of these, such as arsenic, mercury, and cadmium, were within tolerance limits for cannabis products. However, others – particularly lead – were present at concentrations significantly exceeding permissible levels, especially in products from the unregulated market. Importantly, metal contamination was found in liquids that had never been used, suggesting that it originates from the manufacturing devices themselves.

“Evidence strongly suggests that metal contamination may come from the device during its production, not from heating coils,” explains Gajdosechova.

The presence of toxic metals in vape pen liquids, especially highly reactive nanoparticles, can pose a serious risk to users’ health. These metals can be transferred to the aerosol during vaporization and enter the user’s lungs, raising concerns about potential long-term effects.

The Role of Regulation and Future Research Directions

The vape pens study highlights the importance of regulation in ensuring the safety of cannabis vaporization products. Regulations can help eliminate metal contaminants at the production stage and ensure uniformity and quality control of finished products. The research team plans further studies to understand how metal nanoparticles can be transferred to the aerosol and what the health consequences for users might be.

Although vape pens are often presented as a safer alternative to smoking, findings on the presence of toxic metals in cannabis vaporizer liquids underscore the need for further research and regulation. It’s a reminder that both consumers and regulators must remain vigilant about the potential risks associated with new cannabis products.

(Featured image by CDC via Unsplash)

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