A new study suggests that dabbing can increase your risk of cancer. How much evidence there is and if those who dab should stop, is still up for debate. Since the early 2000s, the way people in legal markets ingest cannabis has increasingly changed. While older generations are still fond of smoking, savvy and youthful consumers are vaping and dabbing. The trouble is, marijuana’s federal classification as a schedule-I narcotic. This has put a tremendous burden on those who wish to study cannabis.
Some studies have compared smoking marijuana to tobacco. Tobacco is obviously much worse for you. Yet, none have compared the health effects of cannabis consumption methods to each other. Even with smoking it, physicians assume that inhaling the byproducts of combustion is unhealthful. But no body of research confirms this. Among all this uncertainty, one or two studies pop up every year that give us fresh insight. Researchers at Portland State University investigated dabbing’s health effects recently. Their results were published in the journal of the American Chemical Society, ACS Omega.
What is dabbing? This is taking a concentrate like butane hash oil (BHO) and placing it into what’s called a dab rig. This is placed on the “nail” which holds it. The nail itself is heated, vaporizing the material over time. The vapor moves through the rig—basically a specially made bong. This method offers a powerful high, since such concentrates often contain 90% THC.
It’s thought that since the user isn’t inhaling smoke, it’s healthier. However, Portland State researchers found something different. Rather than limiting damage, dabbing increased the risk of inhaling carcinogenic compounds. These included methacrolein and benzene. Turns out, high heat degrades terpenes—the chemicals that give marijuana its flavor profile. This degradation leads to the creation of such carcinogens.
What’s ironic is, the industry has made great pains to reintroduce terpenes to deliver the flavor and scent users have come to expect. When heated above 750°F, some carcinogens occur, researchers found. Dabs heated above 932°F saw the release of benzene, albeit not at levels as high as found in cigarette smoke, but it’s still concerning.
Most concentrate consumption occurs at temperatures between 572°F and 662°F. Vaporizers and vape pens may be more healthful, according to the study, since these use much lower temperatures. So far, there’s no evidence of terpenes creating carcinogens at these lower temperatures. This could lead to the use of a more controlled heating methods. Today, often a crème brulee torch is used to dab.
There is a lot of uncertainty here. First, the Portland State team only investigated butane hash oil (BHO). There are a variety of other extracts today. Does each produce the same result? Second, this is only one study. A body of research would have to be done to corroborate these findings.
Could this scare users off dabbing and towards vaping? Not necessarily. But it may. As such, extractors might want to keep an eye on the market and have a strategy at the ready, should vaping become the primary method of use. If a producer has a short bandwidth, supercritical CO2 (sc-CO2) or live resin might be among the most versatile strategies to adopt. Whatever you decide, Ai Vacuum has your back.
We carry a premiere line of botanical refinement equipment perfectly suited to meet extractors’ needs. Both live resin and sc-CO2 each require refinement before they make it on dispensary shelves. One of the most popular methods to employ is short path distillation. Our models are efficient, reliable, durable, and versatile. Consider our 10-liter complete turnkey package. This set comes with everything you need to start distilling right out of the box.
Winterization often follows sc-CO2. Our line of ultra-low freezers is perfectly suited for this process. While our 18-cu. ft. model is the most popular in the industry, those with the enough space often go for the 27-cu. ft. freezer. A reactor can also be used for winterization. It carries out the process more quickly that a freezer. Our 50-liter single or dual jacketed model is exceedingly popular for this purpose. It can get down to -80°F.
To be sure, this is a new and dynamic industry that’s changing all the time. Extractors need to be as flexible as possible to keep up with the latest in science and consumer expectations.
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