Am I Vaping Lead?

[January 30, 2019] January 1st of this year marked the first day that cartridges containing cannabis oil, popularly known as “vape carts” or “vaporizing cartridges,” are subject to testing for heavy metals in California. According to a report from David Downs of Leafly, early laboratory findings may be quite alarming to consumers as a number of laboratories are reporting that samples are failing due to unacceptable levels of toxic lead.

The problem stems from the components of the vapor cartridges rather than cannabis oil itself. The cannabis industry utilizes vapor cartridges produced by Chinese factories that source materials from foundries that still use lead to make metal more malleable. This finding has been confirmed by a number of California labs that have tested empty cartridges that have failed for being over California’s lead tolerance limit of 0.5ppm.

As California has instituted the most stringent heavy metal requirements in the country, consumers are now becoming aware of lead contamination in ratios of parts per million still tolerated in other states like Washington. While the cannabis oil itself may be lead-free, the acidic nature of some cannabis oil is likely leeching lead from metal components of the cartridges.

Vape cartridges are thought of as a safer alternative to smoking by many consumers—a notion that may be erased given the results of early testing. At the very least, cartridge fans will likely be a bit less comfortable the next time they pick up their pen for a puff.