New Study Looks At Possible Harmful Compounds in Vaporizing Cannabis

A newly-released study by the Medical Marijuana Research Institute, which tested cannabis oil thinning agents, revealed that medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are among the safest thinning agents available to individuals who vape cannabis.

Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the study analyzed four cannabis oil thinning agents – propylene glycol [PG], vegetable glycerin [VG], polyethylene glycol 400 [PEG 400], and medium chain triglycerides [MCT] – which were all heated to 230 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature at which the plant’s chemical compounds vaporize but do not combust. The resulting vapors were then tested for formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein.

Conducted by Matthew D. DiDonato, Ph.D. and William D. Troutt, NMD, who co-founded the Medical Marijuana Research Institute and who have more than 15 years of cumulative research experience, the study revealed a large discrepancy between the two types of thinning agents – the natural agents (such as MCT and VG) and the petroleum-based agents (such as PEG 400 and PG).

The study revealed that: “Formaldehyde production from PEG 400 isolate was particularly high, with one inhalation accounting for 1.12 percent of the daily exposure limit, nearly the same exposure as smoking one cigarette. Because PG and PEG 400 are often mixed with cannabis oil, individuals who vaporize cannabis oil products may risk exposure to harmful formaldehyde levels.”

The Medical Marijuana Research Institute is the research arm of Harvest, Inc., a Tempe, Ariz.-based cultivator, producer and distributor of medical cannabis products, including Dream Steam, a vaporizable cannabis oil product that utilizes MCT.

“As the use of medical marijuana grows, so too does the demand for safe methods of consumption,” said Steve White, CEO of Harvest, Inc. “Even though Arizona doesn’t mandate that cannabis be tested, or enforce any kind of safety standard for cannabis, we have strict quality-control measures in place to ensure that we’re producing the safest, highest-quality products. We feel it’s our responsibility to not only conduct our own internal testing, but also to have our products independently inspected on a regular basis. As a leader in the medical marijuana industry, it’s important for us to test all cannabis products so that we are producing the safest ones in the market. This recent study validated that thinning cannabis oil with MCT is a safer alternative to a petroleum-based additive that produces harmful levels of formaldehyde when heated for vaporizing.”

Cannabis use in the United States has more than doubled between 2002 and 2013, and is expected to continue its growth trajectory. While 86 percent of medical cannabis consumption takes place through smoking, a concern about negative respiratory and health effects have increased interest in cannabis vaporization as a potentially safer alternative to smoking cannabis.

Vaporization creates an inhalable aerosol by heating cannabis to a temperature at which the plant’s chemical compounds boil. Because the cannabis is not heated to the point of combustion, fewer carcinogens and irritants are produced. Compared with smoking, vaporization is associated with fewer respiratory issues in cannabis users, which some researchers suggest is a result of lower exposure to toxic substances.

“We’re in the business of helping people battle painful medical conditions and debilitating diseases; we’re not in the business of adding to or creating any health issues,” said White. “It’s one of the reasons we feel so strongly that the potential health effects of petroleum-based thinning agents need to be front and center when it comes to regulating cannabis.”