Heavy Metal Is More Than A Genre

Image Courtesy of Getty Images


Nowadays, it is so simple to know exactly where our food comes from, how our clothes are made and who from our history’s past is a part of our DNA but do we know what exactly goes into our vape cartridges? There is no need to go into the federal government’s red tape on cannabis research and testing but there is a large gap in totally understanding what we are consuming. There may be a time in the near future when research will find how detrimental the metal residuals in vape cartridges are because, for now, the effects are unknown.


According to California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), cannabis products are tested for heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. Currently on the market, vape cartridges are exceeding the BCC’s allowable limit of 0.5 ppm (parts per million) of lead in resin from plastic packaging. One way these heavy metals are tested for is with a technology called Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). This particular process is able to detect lower limits than others and is exemplary for cannabis plant testing. What it does is test for the heavy metals found in the cannabis plant’s soil, fertilizer and environment, such as water and air pollution. So far, it’s the most ideal testing technology to analyze a wide range of trace and minor elements but the larger cause for concern is that these heavy metals may pass the initial test and later contaminate the plastic included in the packaging. This becomes increasingly troubling because these metal residuals have not been researched in regards to their short and long-term side effects on human consumption.


This issue isn’t anything new, we saw heavy metals leaking into nicotine e-cigarettes in early 2018, with WebMD even reporting on the story. When it comes to cannabis, many individuals are shifting towards concentrates for convenience in preparation, consumption and ultimate effects. The state of California has some of the most stringent testing guidelines that ultimately affect the future of the industry in the rest of the country and internationally in countries such as Canada. Starting at the beginning of 2019, California-made cannabis products are subject to the BCCs Phase III testing that includes heavy metals, mycotoxins, water activity and terpenoids.

  • Residuals in heavy metals can be found in our natural environment from gas emissions, water, pesticides and everything in between. These natural factors affect the soil in which our favorite consumption products grow, including cannabis, of course.
  • Mycotoxins are toxic substances found in fungi grown on human and animal grain. Human exposure to mycotoxins, through ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact, has been associated with severe human health impacts with long-term exposure.
  • This quantifies the amount of water found in cannabis products that may cause bacterial, yeast and mold growth.
  • This requires companies that advertise terpenes on their products to test for said terpenes and their percentages.

Image Courtesy of Kush Masters


Right now, the state of California is experiencing bottlenecks in their testing facilities. With the increasing popularity of vape cartridges and consumer convenience greater testing will be ultimately needed. Many consumers are shifting to concentrates because of the convenience, but some of the more traditionalist consumers are waiting for the market to evolve and become more heavily regulated. Vape cartridges work by heating the cannabis concentrate to its boiling point. Right now, CCELL (ceramic cell) vape cartridges, made mostly in Shenzhen, China, are more reliable by giving consumers larger inhales with less leaks. The 360° porous ceramic heating system creates this consistent vapor without burning, like other vape cartridge technology. They do not always pass the stringent tests in California but are more passable in states like Washington.


It has been up for debate that the temperature of various vape cartridges may contain more carcinogens than others. Some believe that when products burn above 250° they become cancerous due to metal residual leakage. Some vape cartridges do not burn higher than 320 ° and are seemingly safer than the devices that burn well over 400°. These products are harmful to consumers esophagus’ and have more of a chance of leaking metals into the body. If a consumer is ever curious on which brands burn at lower or higher temperatures they are usually open to answering. But of course, there are limited studies into if varying temperatures are a larger cause for concern at all.


What is needed most is instituting more testing facilities in states like California to properly test cannabis products efficiently and timely. To reduce the amount of heavy metals in cannabis products requires more stringent production procedures from producers and brands alike. The state of California has some of the highest standards to protect the consumer. This is a long-term initiative that needs to be thought about now in order to prevent heavy metal poisonings in consumers worldwide. Like many other issues in the industry, this is another long-standing fight that requires the help of brands, testing facilities, state and federal governments to work together to help shape the future of the industry.