#02 Is Cannabis Safe? Part Two: Contaminants in Cannabis
You're listening to the curious about cannabis podcast now and the ongoing vaping crisis as the CDC reports at least eighteen deaths now connected to vaping aping related illnesses lawmakers across the country weighing whether to put restrictions on it or ban. It altogether. Everybody this is Jason Wilson with a curious about cannabis podcast podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in once again now. This episode is part. Two of a three part series exploring cannabis safety and harm reduction. He hasn't listened to the first part of the series. A I really recommend stopping this episode and going back to listen to the series from the beginning now. Previously we explored some of the main chemicals that are found in cannabis and what the associated toxicity profiles are. We looked at the adverse health risks associated with cannabis and how cannabis can interact with medications. Today we're going. That'd be focusing on a critical topic that has a huge impact on the safety of cannabis products. And that's cannabis contaminants and so far everything we've explored about about the health risks of cannabis civic ignored a really critical element in that's contaminants so far. We've been assuming that if you're using cannabis that cannabis abyss must be clean. But unfortunately that's not always the case the cannabis contaminants that were looking at Anthony. Smith is a biochemist. Oh chemist that has spent the last five years analyzing cannabis products for potency purity in labs all across the United States and Canada. Ten minutes we're looking for are pesticides hides solvents heavy metals micro-toxins and then also microbiological contaminants eat holy and or s attack which is a Shiga Toxin E. Coli Salmonella Djilas a total mold or total. Aerobic plate counts Katrina nonspecific bacteria the most common contaminants that we find are definitely pesticides. I I would say four or five years ago. It was like a rampant rampant thing Where you know at times in Oregon's some times of of the year we were seeing pesticide-product failure rates at twenty percent or more I think the industry got a little bit of a black guy but honestly flee those rates today in Oregon Also in California for pesticide fails or in the two to four percent. Wow range it's fairly low and I mean back again back in the day I mean. A lot of those pesticide fails were products. That were consciously sprayed on the material. Either they didn't know that those materials were persist into the product or didn't care or didn't consult the list of things I don't know but today mostly when we talk to clients that have pesticide fails it it. Now it it's It's either a mistake or something that it was overlooked or sometimes unlisted unlisted product or just kind of a lack of control You Know An- An- not properly trained wind. Farm technician found something maybe in the farmhouse garage instead of in the sort of validated growing area and used it by accident or yeah whatever Sometimes agricultural over spray from Either neighboring cannabis farms or Gosh in Florida. A lot of products is coming up with Malathion. But there's parts of Florida where helicopters appears fly over neighborhoods spraying malathion swampy areas. So you're not paying attention to that and your greenhouses. He's just sucking it in and blowing it before we continue. Let's talk a little bit more about pesticides now. Many pesticides are designed to disrupt corrupt the nervous systems or hormone signaling in insects. The effect this has is basically excites the insect so much that it becomes paralyzed and eventually dies now. The problem is that the same effect can happen in humans. If someone is exposed to enough of a certain pesticide for long enough periods of time and you might be thinking what's the big deal about pesticides and cannabis specifically are we already exposed. Pesticides are food. Well technically that's true unfortunately but the problem relates to the way in which cannabis is consumed. You see when you eat something if if it has pesticides in it your liver goes to work to try to metabolize those products and get them excreted out of the body. It helps keep you safe and helps limit the amount of pesticides that actually reach your bloodstream. And get distributed throughout your entire body. Ever when you smoke something. You're bypassing that metabolic process. You're not allowing things to go through the normal route and get Go through what's called First Pass metabolism and allow the liver to break down some of these do things before it reaches your blood in your lungs. You've got these little sex called Alveoli that are basically the sites of gas and blood exchange so when you breathe in oxygen this is where the oxygen passes through the lungs and into the blood. Well when you he smoked cannabis in you inhale that cannabis smoke if it has pesticides in it. Those pesticides will actually pass through that barrier and reach your blood and then get distributed throughout your body without your liver ever having a chance to help you out. So that's really the main difference why smoking things with pesticides in them is such a bigger. Your problem than eating things have pesticides in them. Additionally some pesticides like Michael Butte nil which is a common fund aside often often used by cannabis cultivators can actually degrade into toxic compounds. Like hydrogen cyanide when they're heated. It's also really important point out that many pesticides as well as micro-toxins can become concentrated in cannabis extracts the whole process of making a cannabis concentrate concentrate can elevate contaminants like pesticides as much as five to ten times. The concentration that they were found in the cannabis flower. That was used to make them. This means if you're consuming cannabis concentrate your potentially being exposed to much greater doses of contaminants than if you're consuming the cannabis flower that was used to produce. That concentrate. Concentrate also WANNA point out that it's not enough to simply test or cannabis flower contaminants prior to making a concentrate. It's totally possible for there to be very trace amounts of pesticides or other contaminants present on that cannabis flower. That are not gonNA show up on any testing but once once you make that cannabis concentrate in those contaminants get concentrated. All of a sudden. You'll start to see them on tests at dangerous levels now. Let's go back to our conversation with Dr Smith Microbial contaminants At least on the Salmonella E-coli N.. Honestly we don't really see any significant it failure rates With modern shelf cannabis. That stuff is all pretty clean. Those are contaminants generally come from manure or UH At hand washing and so In California occasionally. We do see some problems with that in manufactured or infused products Because they're you know I didn't wash their hands making the cakes or whatever again that's though. Yeah and not not really a cannabis thing We do detect ASPERGILLUS We use PCR polymerase chain reaction Shen as a as a screening tool So this is a way to look for the genetic signature of a bunch of different microbes rapidly in a reaction and then if when we do get positive hits Those are always confirmed by direct culture. Plates So aspergillus is still still kind of a thing. this is why a lot of states require moisture moisture content measurement and or water activity measurements. What is this is a means of benchmarking? How dry your materials are in that? They're you're cured to a certain level so you don't have to worry about moulder a Growing out yeah absolutely Also you know while we're talking about mold and Fudgy ASPERGILLUS and other dark-colored molds produce their own sort of form of pesticides called mycotoxin. There are a number of micro-toxins is that are required to be tested for again. Not yet in Oregon I would. I would imagine that to the chemists. They look much like pesticides with respect to their chemistry and analyze them. SPEC in California Rupe has a specific requirement for mycotoxin testing. And so I would say the failure rate for those of you know about similar to the mold failure. Those are really the signature of mold down but they are persistent where you probably would only find mold in cannabis flower. Our time just like pesticides do occasionally be taxed micro-toxins in more finished products in raisins infused is products micro-toxins once produced or super super stable. They're very heat tolerant. Even under high pressure they seem to be able to survive those processes and unlike most pesticides like we know mycotoxin Mycotoxin hypoxia and and persistently or cumulatively they cause cumulative liver damage like your lifetime dose if you will matters a lot of pesticides e certainly. Don't want a lot of them in your bloodstream. They actually do from food but a lot of those are very well. Broken down by the liver and they're generally not that toxic pick below a certain level. That sounds funny to say but still yeah X.. The poison right. Yeah exactly mycotoxin is not so much. YEAH THEY THEY A. They do. Cause liver damage cumulatively. And so it's definitely not something that you want in your food. Yeah and they're They're pretty carcinogenic to from what I understand and It's something that When Oregon was developing the rules of surprised That might be toxins. Assume there was discussion about it early on and then it kind of fell out. But it's something that we you know some work trying to look at that and you know we were able to confirm like it's around for sure. Yeah it's it's fly around you know not super common but you know just in the context of public health and safety especially with how popular extracts are getting getting More and more in vape pens and dabbing and all this thing You know I have some pretty serious concerns about exposure to micro-toxins sins as well as pesticides and everything but pesticides seem to be one of the first contaminants. The state's catch onto that needs to be tested for. And so there's you know a lot more control over pesticides than there are micro-toxins and it's so common for Producers to take a Flower material that might be moldy or otherwise can't be sell sold his flour and to extract it turn it into Concentrate and then can sell that. So what about Heavy metals in cannabis products in twenty thirteen or twenty fourteen Jeff Roeber of the workshop published some paper where they were finding heavy metals in the vapor stream of low-quality VIP cartridges on. So we've been thinking about it for awhile and encouraging they tend manufacturers to when they buy these materials get several different samples and bring handfuls of until the lab and you know will wash them either with like acidic water or symptoms James. MCAT oily what might come through and a lot of indeed do leads a lot of lettuce and it's primarily lead yeah but also some mercury we do see. Some arsenic fails at times in cannabis. The story there that that had a manufacturer farm an indoor place And they were anticipating doing metals tests on their final stuff and so they didn't really want to wait until the end and see and so these guys were smart And when there are many plants were fairly immature just at the start of the budding stage stage like we went and collected much materials BISA basically immature buds and they were loaded with arsenic. Oh Wow so that prompted a a test of the soil and water and the media and everything that we could and turns out At the end of that story Lori was a bunch of nasty. Rock will Oh Wow so. It's Swiss growth medium. Yeah wow it was just off the charts With arsenic leaching of contaminants from cultivation processing or packaging equipment is an issue that people working in the natural products industry offended. Think about for quite some time over some cannabis. Companies are still learning about best practices when it comes to these sorts of things. This is ultimately putting consumers at risk spoke with Travis Simpson and herbal scientists. That spent the past several years working with him. In the cannabis industry knee shared some of his concerns regarding contaminants. It's for a manufacturing and packaging equipment. Chemical compatibility is an ongoing issue. I see within conventional thc and hemp processing using environments A lot of manufacturers or utilizing equipment that has not been thoroughly validated and tested and can in some circumstances be utilizing realizing solvents that might be denatured with other components in order to reduce cost manufacturing so one of the big areas that we see is as ethanol manufacturers using things like painting natured alcohol. And how that has an actual impact on some of the fluid transfer equipment president using the manufacturing process terrapins are one of the great chemical classes produced by the cannabis plant we in natural products world would refer to that whole mixture as just essential oils That can be derived from steam distillation sub critical co two extraction Some very cold hydrocarbon extraction such as propane based extracts yield a very turpin rich product that Unless handled with the appropriate chemically compatible material can cause considerable leaching that will bleed into the products without any test methods in place to identify those some other than organoleptic rubbery mm-hmm or acrid smell. That might come from some silicone products. Used for either in the world. Old Butane propane extraction on the pershing steps. are an area where chemical ability can become a very considerable issue but the essential oil market Some of these products can have as much as seven to ten percent on essential oil by mass without ever being packaged in a method that takes consideration the assault. That might have on say a silicone gasket For a jar LID starting to Encourage consumers to have compatibility conversations with their preferred manufacturer. I think is really really good. Way To bring that topic up in a non-confrontational way but at least provide the questions the manufacturer to enable them an opportunity you to express how they're addressing compatibility within their production system and those manufacturers that cannot provide forthcoming information on their compatibility strategies. Tragedies would be a red flag as a consumer choice. Yeah one of the really important things to note regarding most of these contaminants including things things like pesticides. Metals and Mike. Toxins in really particularly with metals. micro-toxins is that you're not necessarily going to have an immediate reaction when you're exposed opposed to these toxins. These things can build up in the body over time and you may not exhibit any symptoms for a long time before the body finally reaches a tipping point in. Then you're in trouble so just because you've consumed canvas product and you didn't notice any adverse effects that doesn't necessarily mean that you're not being exposed supposed harmful contaminants. This is why it's really important to verify that approx been tested for contaminants prior to using it. And they'll just take someone's word for it when they say that it's been quote unquote tested. What was tested for? He need to ask really pointed questions was tested for pesticides was tested for metals. was tested for micro-toxins you know for instance Currently at the time of this recording in the state of Oregon where I am Metals and micro-toxins are not required required to be tested for in cannabis products however in California. They are so depending on where you are when someone says that something's been tested community very very different things. It doesn't necessarily mean that canvas product is free from contaminants so the takeaway from some of these. Discussions is pretty clear to me. No the purity of your cannabis before consuming but this is easier said than done. There's still many places in the. US and abroad. That have not legalized legalized cannabis or establish. Strict testing requirements for campus for users. That are getting their cannabis from the black market. The really left at the mercy of their suppliers quality and unfortunately this can sometimes lead to tragic consequences. We've got a public health crisis out there right now now with additives in vape pen to Rousseau's referring to recent string of fatalities linked to lung infections or lung damage associated with vape pens. People are calling it a vape crisis. The latest tonight as the OPIOID epidemic hits Pennsylvania. Today the state reported its first vaping relabel. Deanna residents events have died from severe lung injuries. Leveraging from New York has become the youngest person to reportedly die from vaping. Yeah linked to a lung injury because vaping is as being reported here. Enron twenty deaths that have been linked to vaping related lung disease in the United States Department of Health. They're happened five. Cases of AP related lung disease in the state and so far and the textile department has confirmed a death in north Texas from lung injuries related. vaping have learned that a bronx teen was the first New Yorker worker to die from a vaping related illness today the CDC report of the number of cases in the US has reached almost thirteen hundred in forty nine states now and the ongoing vaping crisis lawmakers across the country weighing whether to put restrictions on it or ban it altogether at the time of this recording there have been twenty nine recorded deaths and over thirteen two hundred reported cases of lung infections or damaged linked to vape pens and these reports are growing at a rapid rate while the exact culprit responsible for for these illnesses and deaths has not been yet defied the CDC does not know the cost. There are all kinds of things circulating about what might have been the cause investigators. Investigators suspect it has something to do with additives or contaminants. That actually has nothing to do with cannabis. It has everything to do with additives. That are toxic that are put in these devices on so it can happen with nicotine. vape pens. It could happen with cannabis cannabis vape pens or whatever But I put the finger on the government. you wouldn't have the situation if we had had a legal Commerz Federally in cannabis and he had standards apply to Any of these products. The biggest one hundred percent preventable. If these things were available and regulated properly there'd be no need for kids to be going to a street corner to purchase black-market vape pens with dangerous ingredients. There's other evidence that contaminants in canvas have caused very serious problems for some people as well. which in rare cases has led to death? There are several case studies available of patients that contracted fatal lung infections. Such as a condition called ASPERGILLOSIS. ASPERGILLOSIS is a condition where the spores of certain species of aspergillus fungi. It nestled and small little scrapes grapes and crevices in the lungs where they begin to grow forming a fungal mass. Call Gymnast Purge Aloma. This ultimately starts to break down lung function and it can be fatal in some. Fatal cases reported contaminated cannabis was deemed to be a contributing factor. And possibly the sole cause. This is more common in immune compromise users than regular healthy users but that just highlights the tragedy. Here many people would serious. Health conditions are turning cannabis as a medicine in those patients. The ones that are most vulnerable to the adverse health effects consuming contaminated cannabis. Let's review what we've learned so far. There are a lot of different. contaminants that can appear in cannabis and cannabis products such as pesticides. Residual Solvents Metals micro-toxins molds bacteria medals. mullets tend to appear most frequently in cannabis flower however metals do sometimes show up in extracts due to leaching from incompatible packaging bacteria to new appear most frequently in cannabis infused is products pesticides solvents and micro-toxins or more common canopus extracts typically because the process of making a cannabis concentrate uh actually concentrates. These CONTAMI- contamination is not always direct. Sometimes contamination can come from contaminated soil will water drift from nearby farms or overhead spraying leaching for manufacturing equipment or leaching thrown the packaging metal products being held contaminants. Toxic additives had been responsible for fatalities associated with cannabis consumption users with compromised immune systems the most at risk. By now we seem to be getting a pretty good picture about the safety profile of cannabis. But we're not quite done yet. There's one more issue that we haven't discussed yet that's adolescent cannabis use. What unique risks might young cannabis users face find? Find Out in the third and final part of the series where we finish our curious quest to discover his cannabis safe. Thanks take it easy special. Thanks to our guests that were so gracious and spending time with me for interviews that helped construct not just this episode but other episodes throughout throughout the season to check out the citations for this episode. And there are plenty you can check out the show notes by visiting. CAC PODCAST DOT COM to learn more more about cannabis. You can check out the curious about this book available now on Amazon Dot Com and other online book retailers. You like what we're doing here and support the show at least considers hoarding us by liking sharing episode. With your friends and family can also choose to support us on patron at Patriot. Dot Com slash natural learning enterprises get access to the full link guest interviews behind the scenes content and a lot more can also connect with curious about cannabis on social media on Instagram facebook. Twitter and Youtube Hi relieved.