Weed Vapes May Contain Heavy Metal Contamination, Study Says
Acute metal toxicity has some pretty clear symptoms. If you aren't experiencing them, chill. If you are, get it checked out by a doctor.
Published on November 16, 2021

Those dank clouds of weed vape may be delivering toxic heavy metals into your lungs, a new study has found.

The study, published last month in Chemical Research in Toxicology, discovered chromium, copper, nickel, as well as lead, manganese, and tin in cannabis vapor from 13 commercial brands, “resulting in a possible acute intake of an amount of inhaled metals above the regulatory standard of multiple governmental bodies,” the researchers wrote. Their findings also indicate that heavy metals could transfer from the device’s heating element into the vapor, too.

This isn’t an entirely new concern, either. Cannabis is known to leech heavy metals from soil and water sources, which concentrate mainly in the plant’s leaves but can still be detected elsewhere in its buds, stems, stalks, and roots. Furthermore, as biochemist Frank Conrad told MERRY JANE in 2019, vaping devices, particularly those found on the black market, may generate toxic metallic fumes which could cause heavy metal poisoning, especially with frequent consumption. About a month after Conrad dropped that revelation, researchers confirmed that some sketchy vape devices can, in fact, deliver an ungodly amount of heavy metals into the body.

Many legal states don’t regularly test for heavy metals in weed vape devices, though some states, such as Colorado, will soon be rolling out mandated heavy metal analysis, noted Analytical Cannabis. 

Heavy metals aren’t necessarily coming from cannabis, though. While some state regulations may look for these compounds in cannabis flower and concentrates, they don’t always look carefully at the vape devices as sources for heavy metal contamination. According to the Chemical Research in Toxicology study, vape devices produced higher amounts of heavy metals after seven months of no use. If left in hot conditions around 107°F (roughly the temperature inside of a locked car during the summer), vape devices produced significantly more heavy metals than vape devices left at room temperature for seven months, Analytical Cannabis wrote.

OK, so why is inhaling plumes of chromium, copper, and nickel a bad thing? Sure, we need these things to survive, but only in small amounts. Even at trace levels, heavy metals can build up in the body, and they can linger there for years, causing all sorts of medical problems. For instance, chromium poisoning can cause cancer, breathing issues, as well as screw with liver, cardiovascular, and reproductive functions.

Furthermore, there really aren’t any cures or even treatments for most heavy metal poisonings. Instead, doctors try to control the symptoms, then cross their fingers and hope the patient doesn’t die.

Given we’re still in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, maybe we shouldn’t be adding more health concerns on top of the ones we already have

Does this mean you should stop vaping your weed? Not necessarily. If you’ve got a favorite brand, contact their offices and ask them if they test their products for heavy metals. Ask them what measures they’ve taken to ensure metals don’t get into your lungs. 

And finally, if your state’s regulators aren’t testing for a wide range of heavy metals in cannabis products, start pushing for them to do so.

In the meantime, we’ll stick with The Hu if we want to combine heavy metal with our weed.

Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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