Understanding Cutting Agents in Cannabis Vape Pens
Noel Palmer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Evolab
While humans have been ingesting and smoking cannabis for millennia, vaporizing is a relatively new form of administration. It is widely understood that vaporizing cannabis and cannabis concentrates is a safer option than smoking for many reasons. First and foremost, the lower temperatures required prevent the creation of unpredictable byproducts that can be carcinogenic or lead to other health problems.*
Since its founding, Evolab has embraced vaping, with a focus on using advanced technologies to showcase the best flavors and effects of cannabis. And unlike some vape manufacturers, Evolab has always stayed true to the plant, crafting its formulations without the use of artificial flavors or additives.
Today, the technology supporting cannabis vaporizing is developing faster than the scientific community is assessing the potential health risks of both concentrate formulations and the devices being used.
Highly-refined cannabis concentrates that are greater than 80-90% purity are very viscous, thick substances. In vape cartridges, these concentrates do not properly vaporize unless changed to a more liquid form. Many companies use a variety of cutting agents including PEGs (polyethylene glycols), glycerin, MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) and other chemicals to liquefy extracts.
Propylene glycol and glycerin are particularly common cutting agents used in cannabis vaporization blends. However, it has been shown that these compounds can undergo decomposition when in contact with the heating element of a vaporizer. Research has shown that a variety of volatile carbonyls can be formed, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein. These specific carbonyl compounds are particularly notable because of their adverse health effects on humans. In fact, acrolein was used as a chemical warfare agent in World War I due to its toxicity.**
Developers of these vaporizing devices and formulations are not required to undergo FDA scrutiny, and as a result there is minimal oversight of the quality of these products or potential risks. Further, many manufacturers add untested cutting agents or artificial flavors to their products. Some of these additives have received FDA approval for inclusion in food – but their use in inhaled vapor products is questionable. Therefore, it is currently up to individual manufacturers to ensure that the products they offer are as safe as possible by using premium quality materials such as stainless steel and pyrex glass for their devices - and avoiding unproven additives in their formulations.
At Evolab, we prefer to avoid unnecessary additives, so we developed a unique CO2 fractionation process to extract and purify a combination of cannabis terpenes, terpenoids and other phytochemicals that we call our CDCA, or Cannabis Derived Cutting Agent. This formula is blended with our concentrated cannabinoids to provide a consistent, effective formulation - with no additives and nothing but cannabis.
Consumers have an increasing variety of options when it comes to purchasing vaporizer devices and oils, so it is important to understand the importance of using quality materials and pure, plant-derived formulations for the best vape experience.