The Vaping Health Paradox
Because burning cannabis or cannabis oils can result in the inhalation of dangerous free radicals, vape pens, or vaporizers, have become an increasingly common and popular mode of using cannabis products. Using a vaporizer, or ‘vaping,’ allows for a ‘cool’ intake of cannabis into the lungs by heating the oil to a vaporous state without combustion (burning).
Vaporizer users view vaping as a safer, non-carcinogenic way to use cannabis products, which is partly true. Vaping can be a safer way to avoid carcinogens, but if buyers do not beware of all the ingredients companies are using in their vape formulas, they could actually be doing more harm to their health.
Terpenes & Cannabis Product Formulations
Highly-refined terpenes that are greater than 98%+ in purity, such as those extracted by LabEffects, are incredibly potent aromatic hydrocarbons. When it comes to terpenes in product formulations, a little goes a long way. You only use .5%-3% in sublingual products such as tinctures and 5%-12% in vape products, respectively. However, the percent used in formulation will vary between manufacturers depending on who they are sourcing their terpenes from, considering many suppliers commonly dilute their terpenes up to 50% with non-terpene cuts. While the quality of the terpenes used may be good, the type of cutting agents used could be toxic.
Terpenes come in different forms such as liquids, powders, and gelatins; most terpenes are going to come in a liquid form. Terpenes are very effective in reducing the viscosity of cannabis oils (THC and CBD). They act as natural oil-based solvents. Cannabis oils are thick; to vape them (depending on the vape cartridge and intended formula) you must dilute the oil. Because terpenes are strong aromatic compounds, manufacturers are typically limited in how much can be used without overwhelming the consumer.
To jointly overcome the issues of viscosity and limitation of terpene use, manufacturers will commonly use various cutting agents and carrier oils to thin the viscous oil and bring it to a level of fluidity suitable for vaping and consuming purposes.
Cutting Agents That Turn Toxic
The most common carrier oils or thinning agents used in vaporizers are PEG, PG, Vegetable glycerin, Squalene, and MCT oil. When some of these thinning agents are heated at high voltages, not only can they result in foul tastes and odors, but harmful carbonyl compounds can be produced. Carbonyls are a group of known cancer-causing chemicals.
PEG (Polyethylene glycol) is the active ingredient in antifreeze. PEG breaks down to acetaldehyde and formaldehyde when heated at high temperatures and voltages.
The New England Journal of Medicine findings showed formaldehyde was not detected when heating PEG at a low voltage (3.3v / 230°C), however at a high voltage (5.0v/466°F), formaldehyde was detected. Although it is recommended not to vape above temperatures around 230°C or 466°F, many vaporizers easily reach temperatures up to 600° F.
PEG’s cousin, PG (Propylene Glycol) is also commonly found in e-cigarettes and also breaks down into formaldehyde, although at lower levels.
Vegetable Glycerine (VG) and MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglyceride oil) are more natural and can come from plants such as coconut and palm trees. Heating these oils for vaping purposes can still produce hazardous compounds, in some cases, including acetaldehyde (a type of carcinogen), and acrolein which is commonly used in fuel.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG) is never used on its own but typically in a 3:1 PG/VG ratio. This mixture is the traditional nicotine vape base, which was adopted by early cannabis vape manufacturers. VG is commonly used because it catalyzes the vapor plume or “vape cloud” that vapers love to show off. Manufacturers are limited in how much VG can be used (hence the 3:1 ratio), as it causes a harsh burn in the throat known as a “throat hit”. Some vapers who were previous smokers appreciate this feeling as it gives them the feeling they were once used to when smoking cigarettes, but with the perception they are doing something more healthy by vaping.
MCT oil has grown in popularity and is often confused as 100% natural. Although there are many benefits to Coconut Derived MCT Oil, many manufacturers are turning to synthetic MCT Oil to cut costs. While more studies are needed on what synthetic MCT Oil does when heated at high voltages and inhaled…it leaves the risk and questions open to consumers to find out on their own.
Other than natural terpenes, MCT still appears to be the safest of commonly used cutting agents as it has not been identified to produce the same toxins or carcinogenic by-products in vaping applications as compared to PEG and PG/VG.
So, MCT may be the new carrier of choice until more information is collected through controlled clinical studies on long term use, however, data is limited and consumers should stay conscious of this. What may be considered safe today could present risks tomorrow.
Most of these substances are things that you don’t want to risk putting into your lungs and body, especially while using cannabinoids and terpenes to target any underlying health issues or concerns naturally. Because vape and CBD manufacturers are in grey areas when it comes to regulations and quality standards, there is a gaping hole in the quality control of products.
While vegetable glycerin and MCT oil are both FDA approved for topical use and dietary consumption, the inhalation of these ingredients via vaping products needs more examination to reduce any risks posed. This means that it is up to the consumer to make informed and educated decisions about the quality of the vape formulas and hardware they choose to purchase.
Minimally, the best a consumer can do is stay educated and use what data is available to make smart purchasing decisions to avoid products containing ingredients already identified as high risk. Even then, consumers have their own barriers to accessing proper guidance. When a label includes any of the cutting agents listed above, they are often manufactured with little regulation, meaning the dosing and voltage from pen to pen wildly varies.
When selecting a vaping tool that is made with quality materials (stainless steel and Pyrex glass), there are still high-risk variables. When it comes to choosing a ‘safe’ vaporizing product, many manufacturers and dispensaries will claim that the majority of risk from the type of carrier oil used is minimized by ensuring that the vaporizing unit does not heat to a temperature above 466°F.
Unfortunately, most vape pens don’t have a thermometer on them so consumers can’t actually monitor what temperature their cannabis or CBD oil and carrier oils are vaping at. At the end of the day, 90% of the vaporizing hardware is cheap, mass-produced product of China where the risk of malfunction is rampant.
A Natural Solution…
So, what’s the solution? It all comes down to finding brands and understanding the ingredients you can trust. Lab Effects is committed to not only providing high-quality pure terpene products but also to helping manufacturers preserve that same quality through product formulation. That’s why we developed The Cut™.
The ‘Holy Grail’ in cannabis product formulation sought after for so many years, was finding a terpene with a very subtle or non-existent aromatic/flavor profile so it could be used in higher concentrations as a pure and natural cutting agent, eliminating the need for all other common and risk-prone product diluents. The Cut™, is that ‘Holy Grail’. A flavorless and scentless pure terpene that you can use as a diluent without overwhelming or harming the consumer.
As a naturally occurring 100% pure plant-derived terpene it’s ideal for reducing the viscosity of cannabis extracts, without worrying about changing the integrity of the vape liquid.
- Safe and superior diluent alternative to PG, VG, PEG and MCT
- Devoid of any known health risks when vaped at even the highest temperatures/voltages
- Naturally occurring 100% pure plant-derived terpene (odorless/flavorless)
- Ideal for reducing the viscosity of cannabis extracts
- Eliminates the need to winterize (de-wax) oils
- Saves money and time when formulating
Many CBD and terpene companies offer a carrier oil or cutting agent of some kind, but the majority still use some non-terpene based product that not only presents risks to consumers but can also hurt the overall quality of the vape liquid itself. Among those few companies who offer a ‘terpene based’ diluent, they are, in most cases, heavily diluted themselves with non-terpene additives such as vegetable oil. While it is ethically questionable for these companies to charge terpene prices for vegetable oil (like squalene), it more importantly presents the same risks The Cut™ was designed to eliminate.
Lab Effects guarantees the quality, safety, and purity of its products, and we highly encourage customers to do a comparative potency test. If we don’t meet or exceed that of your current supplier… we will pay for the test!
Test Disclaimer: Any lab you use must have a complete library of terpene standards to calibrate their equipment from in order to achieve complete and accurate results. Contact us for assistance in finding capable and accredited testing facilities: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have questions? Leave a comment or email us at email@example.com.