April 12, 2022
The growing consciousness about public health and safety has raised a concern about potentially harmful compounds and adulterants in cannabis vaping products. The cannabis regulators in Colorado have mandated testing cannabis vape emissions for metal contamination, effective January 1, 2022. However, with laboratories still finding effective vape testing methods, there has been a delay in implementing the rule.
According to regulators, it is not enough to test cannabis vape oils, testing vapor emissions for heavy metals is also crucial. The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (CMED) needs one or more laboratories to develop testing methods for vape emissions before enforcing the rule. Consumers do not inhale vape oils directly but through vapor emissions. Therefore, testing vapor emissions is essential for the safety of consumers. The need for testing vapor emissions arrived from the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses in 2019. Many US states, such as California, Hawaii, and Michigan, have also reported cases of toxic metal contamination in legal cannabis vape products.
Until now, there is no standardized method for cannabis vapor testing. However, some tests are expected to be ready in a few weeks. Some cannabis testing laboratories have started looking for ways to develop and validate their vape testing methods. Colorado is the first US state to introduce vapor emissions testing requirements to cannabis vape producers. Some of the requirements are:
1. Examining the aerosol produced from vaping cannabis oil and its effects on human health.
2. Testing metals that must include, but are not limited to, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
3. Including an expiration date on cannabis vape cartridges to ensure product quality and maintain consumer safety, effective July 1, 2022.
Cannabis testing laboratories should soon develop methods for testing vapor emissions. A regulated testing facility must conduct emissions testing for every harvest and production batch of cannabis extracts in vaporized delivery devices. Also, cannabis vape producers should follow these rules so that unsafe products do not reach the market.
Vapor testing has been a regular practice for tobacco e-cigarettes. However, it is newly introduced in the cannabis sector. Cannabis testing laboratories need to develop test methods for detecting heavy metals in vapor emissions. Testing vapor emissions eliminates the potential risks of illness to consumers. Apart from testing for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in vapor emissions, laboratories should also consider the metals used to make vape products. For example, the metal cartridges are made from brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. It is also essential to determine their heating effects on human health.
According to CMED, cannabis testing laboratories can use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectroscopy (HR-MS) to identify the contaminants and their quantity in vapor emissions. The process involves loading the vape cartridge into a special mouthpiece designed to hold and smoke the vape. The emissions are then collected on a pad behind the mouthpiece and tested using NMR and HR-MS equipment. However, this process may introduce multiple challenges. The oil droplets and other compounds need to be collected soon after the emissions leave the mouthpiece, or they may stick to other surfaces, eventually getting lost. Cannabis oil is a completely different matrix, and hence, testing laboratories need to conduct various tests on cannabis oil and figure out the optimal solution.
Cannabis testing laboratories should not limit the testing of vapor emissions to toxic compounds but should be capable of identifying other compounds that can harm cannabis smokers. Accurate test results could help guide vape manufacturers to create safer and more trustworthy products.
When testing for heavy metals, cannabis testing laboratories need to track every gram of sample from accessioning to disposal. Digital laboratories run on automated workflows that support sample traceability. Laboratories using an informatics solution, such as a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), always stay ahead of the curve as a LIMS helps streamline their QA/QC processes. A Cannabis LIMS can also help cannabis testing laboratories manage and schedule timely calibration of equipment, such as NMR and HR-MS. It can help laboratories manage a large pool of data and important documents such as standard operating procedures (SOPs).
A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) maintains training and competency records of laboratory personnel and helps laboratory managers to assign tasks only to the staff with the right competency. Furthermore, a LIMS helps generate custom certificates of analysis (CoAs) with ease, enabling laboratories to share them with clients and regulatory agencies.
Cannabis vaping is gaining popularity amongst youngsters which also raises concerns about the quality of cannabis products and vaping devices. The new rules on testing cannabis vapor emissions aim to safeguard human health. However, as the rules assure consumer safety, it also adds cost to cannabis testing laboratories. A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a cost-effective solution for cannabis testing laboratories to comply with the upcoming rules and expand their services to include vape testing.