How Safe Are Vape Pens and Propylene Glycol?
The Hidden Dangers Contained In Propylene Glycol
What is CBD e-Liquid?
CBD e-Liquid is the term used to describe the fluid used for electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) or vaporizers. You will need the e-cigarette or the vaporizer to use the CBD e-liquid or CBD vape juice.
Vape pens, which are a type of portable electronic device, are becoming increasingly popular with medical marijuana patients as well as other people because they provide a discreet, convenient and supposedly benign way of administering cannabis. But just how safe are these vape pens, along with liquid solutions contained in the cartridges that attach to the device? How do you know what is being inhaled with them?
Many people assume that vaping is a healthier way of administering marijuana than inhaling its smoke, which contains substances that are noxious and might irritate your lungs. A vaporizer heats cannabis oil concentrate or flowers without burning them so that there isn’t any smoke involved when the active ingredients get inhaled. That is how in theory, at least, it supposedly works.
However, vape pens might have a hidden downside to them. Typically they are made in China and are manufactured, marketed and used without any regulatory controls. Vape pens are available at medical marijuana dispensaries and online. They come equipped with a battery-operated heating mechanism, and at high temperatures may transform different vape oil additives, flavoring agents, and solvents into carcinogens along with other unhealthy toxins.
Propylene glycol is of particular concern. This chemical is widely used and is mixed with hemp oil or cannabis in numerous vape pen cartridges. Propylene glycol is a syrup-like, thinning compound and is the main ingredient in most nicotine-infused e-cigarettes. When the compound is at high temperatures, it converts into slight polymers that may damage lung tissue.
Scientists have lots of information on propylene glycol. It is contained in many everyday household items, including antifreeze, pet food, pharmaceuticals, baby wipes and cosmetics. Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have deemed that propylene glycol is safe for human topical application and ingestion. However, exposure via inhalation is an entirely different matter. There are many items that are dangerous to breathe even if they are safe to eat.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a 2010 study that made the conclusion that when airborne propylene glycol circulates indoor, it may exacerbate or induce eczema, asthma and various other allergic symptoms. It was said that children were particularly susceptible to airborne toxins. There was also a toxicology review conducted earlier that issued a warning that propylene glycol may be harmful because aerosol particle lodge deep within the lungs and aren’t respirable. Propylene glycol is commonly found in hairsprays.
Whenever a red-hot metal coil heats up propylene glycol, there is an increase of potential harm that can come from inhalation exposure. Propylene glycol along with other types of vaping additives may be transformed into carbonyls by high voltage heat. Carbonyls are cancer-causing chemicals that include formaldehyde. Low birth weight and spontaneous abortions have been linked with formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a thermal breakdown product from propylene glycol and is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a group 1 carcinogen.
The FDA has classified propylene glycol as GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) for using it as a food additive due to its low oral toxicity. However, this classification was made on drawing from toxicity studies that didn’t involve heating propylene glycol and breathing it.
FDA-approved flavoring agents are very prevalent within nicotine e-cigarette products and are also contained in some of the vape oil cartridges. They pose additional risks when they are inhaled as opposed to eaten. The flavoring compounds creamy and smooth (acetyl propionyl and diacetyl) have been linked to respiratory illnesses when they are inhaled in tobacco e-cig devices. Cinnamon Ceylon is another flavoring compound that is safe to eat but hazardous when it is inhaled. When cinnamon Ceylon is aerosolized, it becomes cytotoxic.
There is currently no conclusive evidence that users who frequently inhale vape oil cartridge contents will develop cancer or other illnesses. That is because very little is known about either the long-term or short-term health effects of inhaling propylene glycol as well as other ingredients contained in flavored vape pen cartridges. Prefilled cartridges are often poorly labeled and contain no or very little meaningful information regarding their contents.
Given that vape pens may potentially expose individuals to unknown health hazards emphasizes why it is so important that these products have adequate safety tests conducted on them. This has been lacking so far.
There are several challenges that scientists face as they are attempting to gather pertinent safety information. To date, no one has figured out the amount of e-cig vapor that a typical user inhales. Therefore, different studies use various amounts of vapor for their standard, which makes it hard to compare results. It is also problematic to trace what happens to vapor after it has been inhaled.
The device itself is the largest variable. The performance of every vape pen may greatly vary between various devices. At times there is a significant amount of variance when two devices from the same model are compared.
With some vape pens, a button needs to pressed for the heating coil to be charged. Others do not have a button, and the battery is activated from just sucking on the vape pen. The heating element’s surface area on the vape pen along with its electrical resistance play significant roles in converting solvents that are ingestible into toxins that are inhalable.
Another complicating factor is the fact that there is very little information available on how long and when the user on average inhales or pushes the button, how voltage is utilized during the heating process, or for how long the coil is heated up. The New England Journal of Medicine cited a controlled study on propylene glycol where high formaldehyde levels were yielded in a five-volt setting.
When it comes to vape pens, specific research is needed on exactly how individuals use the products in real world situations so that the potential harms and benefits can be better understood.
These types of studies have been conducted on the Volcano vaporizer, which is a first generation device which is different from the more recent innovation of the vape pen in several respects. The Volcano has been used as a medical delivery device in clinical trials and is not a portable device. The Volcano heats raw cannabis flower and not oil extract solution. The device also does not combust the bud.
Although vape pen manufacturers may not want to admit it, inside a vape pen, whenever the heating element become red hot, the solution contained within the prefilled cartridges undergoes “smoldering,” which is a technical term which means “burning.” Although a lot of vape liquid gets atomized and vaporized, part of vape oil blends undergoes combustion or pyrolysis. From that perspective, a majority of vape pens that are available in today’s marketplace might not be true vaporizers.
Hemp oil vape cartridges that contain Propylene Glycol according to their websites and labels
- Alternate Vape
- Bluebird Botanicals
- CannaVape CBD Oil
- Cloud 9 CBD
- Delta Liquids
- Entourage Hemp Products also known as Cannoid LLC
- Hemp Life Today (also known as Cannazall)
- Hemp Pure Vape
- Hemp Vap
- Miracle Smoke
- Michigan Hemp Company (also known as Bluegrass Naturals)
- Pure CBD Vapors
- Pure Hemp Vape
- Tasty Hemp Oil
- Zamnesia CBD Smart Liquid