Concentrates and vapor pens are among some of the fastest growing markets in the cannabis industry.
In fact, the market for concentrates and vapor pens has increased by 145.6 percent between 2014 and 2016 in Washington state alone.
Most often made using solvents to strip the herb’s essential oils from plant material, concentrates are most often used in vaporization or inhaled via special “rigs” used for instant vaporization of oils.
In general, vaporization is considered a far safer alternative to cannabis smoking. In fact, the first long-term, peer-reviewed study on the subject was published in early 2017 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
After examining blood and urine samples from 181 participants, British researchers discovered that those who switched to vaporization and electronic cigarettes showed significantly lower levels of carcinogens and other toxic chemicals than consumers who smoked.
Yet, some experts are calling bluff on the idea that all cannabis vape pens are safe.
Why? The quality of vapor pens can range wildly depending on how a cannabis concentrate was processed and made.
Fortunately, there’s some good news. Not all vape pens carry the same safety risks.
Here are five things to consider when looking for a safe vapor pen:
1. Some vape pens contain harmful additives
Store your vape cartridges upright, with the oil touching the heating element.
As it turns out, some vape pens may not be so safe.
In a 2017 report published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that certain common additives to vapor pens may pose health risks.
The two additives in question? Propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG).
Both substances are commonly added to e-juice and vapor cartridges to thin out an otherwise thick, honey-like material.
Unfortunately, while these additives are generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) they can transform into more dangerous substances when heated to the point of combustion.
The point of combustion for cannabis products is 446F (230C).
Specifically, PG and PEG are both converted to the known carcinogen formaldehyde with heat.
Formaldehyde is also used to preserve cadavers for scientific experimentation and is a well-known lung and skin irritant.
Fortunately, the study found that other additives like vegetable glycerine did not pose a health risk.
The study found that MCT oils can break down into a carcinogen known as acetaldehyde when exposed to high heats, but levels of acetaldehyde from MCT oils were still 33 times less than that found in PEG.
Hoping to play it safe with vapor pens? Opt for products that list their ingredients and do not contain PG or PEG.