Regulators in California are rejecting a “concerning” number of cannabis oil vape cartridges for lead contamination, according to a Leafly report.
California implemented new, more stringent testing standards starting January 1. Under the new rules, lead limits were lowered to 0.5 parts per million. That’s the strictest standard in the world — Washington’s current limit, for instance, is 1.2 parts per million.
Experts say that lead is a “boogeyman metal.” There is no level of lead that is considered safe, which is why there has been such a strong movement over the last 50 years to remove lead from everything from paint to gasoline.
The majority of vape cartridges are manufactured in China. Lead is added to the other metals used in manufacturing the cartridges in order to make the metal easier to mold. A small bit of added lead can save a manufacturer millions when you consider the scale at which these cartridges are manufactured.
Cannabis oils, however, are what has started failing regulator testing in California. It’s speculated that because cannabis oil is acidic, it’s leaching the lead from the metal of the vape cartridge over time. Once dissolved in the cannabis oil, lead might be vaporized along with the same oil that people are inhaling.
While only about 0.5% of the cartridges since January 1 are failing, many are passing at 0.4 or 0.3 parts per million, just below the legal limit. And the ones that do fail are often doing so at 0.6 or 0.7 parts per million — levels that would be considered safe in Washington. And that’s in the highest quality cartridges made in China.
Vape cartridges used in the illicit market are often the lowest quality, or cheapest, cartridges. It’s unknown what level of contamination might be in those, as unregulated products are not tested.
Many producers are now demanding completely lead-free cartridges. Implementing manufacturing changes, however, as well as clearing previous stock still sitting on shelves, means that there will be no obvious changes until at least later this winter.