Vape cartridges and electronic cigarettes (known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs) have been in the news recently because of the adverse side effects people have experienced that include lung infections and, in some cases, death. But are ALL vape cartridges unsafe for consumption? The short answer is no. Let’s look at what’s causing the health epidemic and what you can do as a consumer to protect yourself.

The Cause

Multiple media outlets and state health agencies have confirmed brands such as Chronic Carts, Dank Vapes and West Coast Carts are producing the highly toxic cartridges that are frequently purchased by unsuspecting consumers. Leafly recently investigated a supply chain of illegal THC vape cartridges that “begins in China, runs through Los Angeles, disperses to regional pen factories, and ends up in the lungs of unsuspecting consumers.[i]” Even though Leafly’s investigation only exposes a very small fraction of the illicit vape cart market, it’s important to understand the commonality found in these products.

Independent lab tests have confirmed the contents of illegal vape cartridges are being filled with Vitamin E acetate. This additive allows illegal cartridge makers to “dilute THC oil without thinning the viscosity.[ii]” The final product is then sold to consumers looking to save a few dollars, which unfortunately has led to a spike in cartridge malfunctions, health complications and death. Illegal vape cartridges begin malfunctioning when they become very hot and burn additives and thickeners. Once the additives and thickeners burn, an unknown gas is released into the lungs resulting in the respiratory damage experienced by more than 800 patients across the United States.

However, vitamin E acetate is not the only harmful substance you should be concerned with. In a recent test of 10 unregulated cartridges by CannaLabs in Los Angeles, all 10 vape cartridges tested positive for pesticides such as myclobutanil. Myclobutanil is a fungicide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), hydrogen cyanide is a “systemic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the normal use of oxygen by nearly every organ of the body.[iii]

The use of these chemical compounds is alarming and because so many people across the country were affected by illegal THC vape cart consumption, the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have warned consumers to “avoid buying products off the street and refrain from modifying or adding substances to products purchased in stores.[iv]” Additional brands such as Brass Knuckles, Heavy Hitters, Cereal Carts, Mario Carts and Exotic Carts have also been identified as brands that are producing harmful vape cartridges and should be avoided at all costs.

The Solution

Experts agree that if you are in the market to purchase THC vape cartridges, purchase them from a state-regulated marijuana dispensary. Consumers should take comfort in knowing that licensed dispensaries carry vape cartridges from reputable brands who are willing to share lab results of their products. As a medical marijuana patient, you want this level of transparency from the businesses you give your hard-earned dollars to.

Health for Life Dispensaries, located in Mesa, Arizona as well as Baltimore, Bethesda and White Marsh Maryland, sell THC vape cartridges from brands that pair safe extraction methods with high-quality cannabis to produce a safe product intended for medical marijuana patients.

If you have additional questions about the products and brands we carry, we encourage you to speak with your Patient Consultant at Health for Life Dispensaries.

[i] Downs, D., Howard, D., & Barcott, B. (2019). Journey of a Tainted Vape Cartridge: From China’s Labs to Your Lungs. Retrieved from: https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/vape-pen-injury-supply-chain-investigation-leafly

[ii] Downs, D. (2019). Vape Pen Lung Disease: Here’s What You Need to Know. Retrieved from: https://www.leafly.com/news/health/
vape-pen-lung-disease-advice-consumers

[iii] Center for Disease Control. (2019). Hydrogen Cyanide (AC): Systemic Agent. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/
emergencyresponsecard_29750038.html

[iv] Azar, A., Sharpless, N., & Redfield, R. (2019). Vaping Oversight Is a Top Concern: HHS, FDA, CDC. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/09/05/vaping-oversight-top-concern-hhs-fda-cdc-editorials-debates/2224432001/

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