However, the use of diluents is not a prominent issue we’ve been experiencing in the legal cannabis market. That doesn’t necessarily mean all legal cartridges are safe- heavy metals from the actual vape hardware may be playing a role in the vaping illness as well.
Because of a cannabis concentrate’s acidic nature, metals from cheap hardware can be leached out over a period of time, resulting in failing levels of heavy metals in the actual product. This can be especially prevalent in vapes with citrus flavorings or terpenes added, such as limonene, caryophyllene, and myrcene.
So if a vape cartridge were to pass compliance one day after filling the carts, and then tested again after a month on the shelves, it is possible that the product would fail for heavy metals depending on the integrity of the hardware.
Jayneil Kamdar, PhD, InfiniteCAL Lab Manager and ICP-MS specialist, has been conducting heavy metal shelf-life studies on several varieties of cartridges. Here’s what he has to say on the subject:
1. How do you conduct shelf-life studies on vape hardware?
We first fill vape cartridges with a distillate that has been pre-tested in-house and confirmed to be metal-free. The vape cartridges are then left to sit in an incubator at an elevated temperature. Typically we leave them to incubate for several weeks or even months depending on the client’s request. The distillate is then transferred out of the cartridge and prepared for heavy metals testing using ICP-MS, where they are screened for arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
2. How long do you recommend oil sit in the cartridges before testing for heavy metals?
We recommend at least 2-3 weeks under an elevated temperature. The elevated temperature speeds up the rate of any potential leaching of metals.
3. Based on your research, are heavy metals leaching into oil a problem manufacturers & consumers should be worried about?
When Phase 3 compliance testing first came into effect in January, vape manufacturers realized the cheap carts they were buying overseas were leaching dangerous levels of lead into the oil. The oil tested at the R&D level was clean, but once it was dispensed into a cartridge the product would fail. The heavy metal fails have been decreasing throughout the year, but depending on how long the product sits on the dispensary shelves is another story. It’s very possible that a vape cartridge won’t pass compliance testing after a month or two of it being filled, and there could be serious consequences for consumers and manufacturers alike.
4. Why should manufacturers consider when purchasing their vape hardware?
Historically, lead has been added to brass and copper to make the metals more moldable. This practice has been discontinued in the United States, but cartridges obtained outside the US may not be held to the same manufacturing standards. It’s possible some manufacturers are still adding lead to the components of their carts, which could result in contamination of the oil.
5. Why should manufacturers do their due diligence and get these shelf-life studies done?
Manufacturers should do their due diligence so that they don’t run into any surprises. Imagine a scenario in which vape cartridges pass for heavy metals in the initial R&D test but then fail for heavy metals in compliance testing after their vape cartridges have been sitting in storage for 3-4 weeks allowing time for metals to leach out. That’s a lot of money lost and it’s a situation no manufacturer wants to get into. Manufacturers should also consider the responsibility they have towards their consumers. If people start getting sick from your product, that’s something a brand can’t come back from.
If you’re interested in conducting a shelf life study on your vape hardware, please contact the lab and we can create a custom analysis to meet your needs.