Cannabis extracts are relatively new, but they’re the fastest-growing segment of the retail cannabis industry. And it’s easy to see why they’re so popular; they’re potent and flavorful, they’re exciting, and they’re a great way to sample cannabis. But while you may be familiar with extracts, you might not be so familiar with the potentially dangerous side effects of dabs.
A new study highlights the potential side effects of dabs, or concentrates. Namely, the potential for carcinogen exposure with some extracts. Here are some ways you can minimize your potential for harm by selecting the safest, highest-quality products.
Trouble with Terpenes?
The above-mentioned study is fascinating for several reasons, not least because its purpose was to specifically assess the safety and side effects of dabs, in the hopes of improving outcomes for both medical and recreational users.
Its point of inquiry begins with terpenes, the chemical compounds that make each cannabis strain unique. Accurately assessing the medicinal effect of terpenes is difficult, but we can study their “degradation products.” Essentially, we can study what’s left behind when we combust extracts in a dabbing rig or vape pen.
What did the study find? In broad terms, they found that the higher the temperature we use to vaporize cannabis extracts, the greater potential for harmful degradation products. Some such products, like methacrolein (MC), are characterized as “noxious irritants.” Others are even worse. Benzene, another harmful degradation product, is a potent carcinogen. It has been called the “largest single known cancer risk” commonly found in our air. Ouch. Luckily, we can still enjoy extracts without experiencing the harmful side effects of dabs.
Tips for Cleaner Cannabis Extracts
Fortunately, there are steps you can take. For one thing, not all cannabis concentrates are equal. Many come from the butane hash oil (BHO) method, in which producers use butane to extract cannabinoids from cannabis flower, which they then “purge” under a vacuum or in an oven.
Because butane is highly flammable, it is the cause of countless “dab lab” fires and explosions. Relying on this method has killed many would-be chemists and caused massive amounts of property damage.
BHO extracts can be chemically pure and safe to use, if you do it the right way. Otherwise, producers who cut corners end up with chemically tainted cannabis extracts. Perhaps the supercritical CO2 extraction is a better option. In this process, producers place the inert gas under sufficient pressure and temperature to transform it into a solvent-like liquid.
Extracts produced using this method are typically more expensive than other varieties, but may well be worth the added expense given their reduced potential for chemical contamination.
As the end user of cannabis extracts, you have some control over its safety as well. The dabbing study concluded that lower temperatures corresponded with lower amounts of those harmful degradation products. So, if you’re dabbing rig features temperature control, consider setting it lower than you normally might. Some users feel there’s a chance you’ll leave some cannabinoids un-vaporized, but on the upside, you may be doing your lungs a big, big favor.
For a variety of cannabis concentrates, check out the Have a Heart location nearest you!