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Thursday February 28, 2019

By Andrew Ward


Vaping has gained significant ground on the cannabis industry in relatively short order. Today, cannabis vape cartridges have cut into the market share of flower and other consumption methods. This trend is expected to continue for some time thanks to the enhanced potency, flavor and its less abrasive experience on many consumers’ throats and lungs.

The last point, however, may actually not be the case. A recent report found that one of the most popular cartridge brands in the world was not meeting California’s new standards for lead levels.

The news caused scores of consumers to wonder if their products are safe to consume. More so, they wanted to know if they could trust vaping at all. While the news is nothing to skip over, the most significant part of the concern may be over, in California at least. Let’s unpack the situation and find out what’s really in your vape cartridges.

Is There Lead in My Cannabis Vape Cartridge?

CCELL is one of, if not the premier choices in vaping. Its trademarked technology is used by scores of producers, including plenty of major names in the cannabis space. The company's website explains that the they invested three years of research and development into its heating technology. In the years since, it has dealt with trademark infringement, including from similar sounding products such as C-CELL. However, the official CCELL is made in China and is owned by Shenzen SMOORE Technology Limited.

Vape Pen
Many vape pen brands have adopted CCELL cartridges or styles that are very similar.

CCELL had not run into any issues of concern until California implemented new guidelines. The state, notorious for strict testing and warnings for numerous trace concerns of chemicals, sought to minimize the risk of lead exposure to consumers. Its new guidelines called for more rigorous testing and lower acceptable levels of chemicals and specific elements in products. With the new guidelines, California had imposed the strictest lead standard in the world. Under the new regulations, CCELL failed to register the less than .5 parts per million (ppm) allowed by the state. This may not have been the outcome in other states, like Washington where 1.2 ppm is the allowed maximum. Meanwhile, other states have no rules on maximum limits at all.

The news left many wondering why lead was even involved in their vapes at all. In truth, the answer is that lead is used in much more than vape cartridges. In fact, lead is used by many manufacturers to help with the shaping of metals in their cartridges and other products. Its use is prevalent in China and is why California and the EU have placed harsh restrictions on acceptable limits of lead in products.

The Dangers of Lead Contamination

Lead has been known to be a dangerous toxicant for some time. The World Health Organization calls lead "a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children." Whether young or old, lead affects the entire body. It is distributed through the body, including the brain, in bones and teeth. Pregnant women find themselves especially at risk as lead in the bones is released into the blood and can be passed onto the fetus.

Lead Example
Lead (pictured) is not something you want to be vaping and inhaling. photo credit

While lead exposure is most concerning for young children, all ages can experience side effects. This includes impacting the bodies neurological, gastrointestinal, reproductive and renal effects among others. Today, the Center for Disease Control uses 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) to identify children with high lead levels in their blood. Meanwhile, the typical level for an adult in the U.S. is below 10 µg/dL. In addition to eliminating exposure, patients may also need additional treatment depending on the severity of their symptoms. In some cases, chelation therapy may be required.

What Does This Mean for Cannabis Consumers?

Going forward, cannabis consumers in California should not have to worry about their product. However, this only applies to products bought after New Year’s Day 2019. Items purchased since then adhere to the latest regulations that stipulate .5 ppm or less. However, those purchased beforehand could contain lead in the oil so be careful what you’re purchasing. That said, consumers may want to opt for flower for a bit longer. As the initial report suggests, those hoping to consume oil sure to be free of lead should hold off on using any of these products for a short time. 100% lead-free vapor will be available sometime later this winter.

Always be sure you're 100% aware of what goes into your cannabis products.

Additionally, concerns about lead likely eliminate all options on the black market. There, products are typically made with cartridges sourced from China. As such, neither the cartridge’s producer nor its seller has tested the product. So, while it may have seemed like buying a faulty cart was the worst possible outcome of the transaction, we now know it could be much worse.

Though the price hike may be hard for some to swallow, buying regulated products assures consumers that they are purchasing a product that follows the laws and regulations laid out by the state. For those outside of states with regulated lead levels, they may want to consider doing their own research on individual products or remain open to another method of consumption for the time being.

Overcoming Issues with Lead

Lead has long been a concern for consumers across the globe. Years before vaping there was lead paint, which remains a problem in millions of homes today. It can also be a point of concern in standard household items from batteries to fuel for the car to our pipes and art. Vaping is, unfortunately, just another area where lead is a concern for human safety.

So far, regulated cannabis products have not been a health risk regarding its lead levels. And with CCELL’s manufacturers now adhering to California’s stricter regulations, this problem should not grow much larger in the Golden State. However, in other markets, where lead is allowed at higher levels, consumers may want to exercise caution when deciding on what to buy.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of lead contaminants in cartridges? Share them below!


Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

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