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Tuesday, March 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Is a lack of industry standards making your vape cartridges dangerous?

Altas cartridges bear an “Atlas Ceramic Coil Lead-Free” symbol on all packaging. (Courtesy Atlas Technology)
Altas cartridges bear an “Atlas Ceramic Coil Lead-Free” symbol on all packaging. (Courtesy Atlas Technology)
By Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Outside of FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, legal cannabis products are some of the most tested and regulated products American consumers can buy.

So why do current state standards allow for the presence of lead in heavy metals tests, particularly in vape cartridges? Industry pioneers, such as Atlas Technology in Tukwila, insists we must do better.

“We can’t wait for the regulators or reputable media outlets to educate consumers,” said Kent Haehl, President of Atlas Group. “The legal and regulated cannabis industry must take responsibility for informing our customers about the safety of our products, and it is incumbent upon us to deliver healthy and safe vaporization products.”

To be clear, the issue is not with the distillate within the vape cartridge. But, in the testing of the distillate, lead can be found because many vape cartridges contain structural metal that can leach lead into the distillate when heated.

California has already created a stringent regulatory standard for heavy metals, but Atlas is setting the standard in Washington when it comes to cartridges with no detectable level of lead or other harmful heavy metals.

Atlas, as a supplier to the cannabis industry, encourages the adoption of a simple standard that no level of lead in cartridges is acceptable. Its lead-free vape cartridges are distributed in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California, and have zero detectable levels of lead in manufactured components or the oil inside the cartridges. Altas cartridges all proudly bear an “Atlas Ceramic Coil Lead-Free” symbol on all packaging.

So why is permissible in vape carts? Why does the cannabis industry passively accept this? Since cannabis is not yet federally regulated, it’s up to consumers to demand more dependable regulation at the state level. Atlas believes a lead-free standard will benefit consumers and the industry.

A unanimous scientific consensus exists – supported by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control – that there is no safe level of exposure to lead, and the harmful heavy metal is outlawed in most common consumer products such as paint.

Nicotine e-cigarettes commonly test positive for heavy metals and, apart from printed warnings, and are accepted as legal for adults by the Food & Drug Administration. Heavy metals such as arsenic and lead are also beginning to be seen in e-cigarette devices, through not necessarily cannabis ones.

A 2018 study on non-cannabis vape cartridges found that heavy metals, including lead, originated from the e-cigarette’s heating coils. These same coils, used by a cartridge battery to heat the nicotine oil, are the same ones used in many cannabis vape cartridges.

Basically, any amount of lead is bad for human health, but some exposure unavoidable. Lead is in the rain, in the soil, in food, and electronics. Lead contamination can also be passed on through cross-contamination. The unique properties of lead mean that it continues to be used because of its malleability, poor conductibility and resistance to corrosion. Plus, it’s cheap compared to other metals.

With any luck, more public attention will raise awareness and standards for testing. For now, to avoid lead contamination, it’s best to stay away from vape cartridges containing metal parts. If you aim to buy lead-free, know exactly what you’re buying and who you’re buying from.

The only certifiably lead-free vape cartridges are going to be 100% ceramic, containing no plastic or metallic parts. If you’re buying vape cartridges from your local recreational or medical shop and you don’t see product info stating “lead/heavy metal-free” and “100% ceramic”, you’re not buying lead-free.

Haehl said it’s natural for consumers to be confused and alarmed about the news about vaping causing severe sickness or death.

“Every day, headlines detail new concerns that should be a wake-up call for the cannabis industry,” he said. “It needs to debunk illegitimate distortions of fact. But it also must clearly articulate a solution to some of the inherent health and safety issues. We invite everyone to get the lead out! All vape cartridges can and should be lead free.”

Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.

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