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What could taint the carts?

Consumers have used disposable vaporizer cartridges with standard additives—propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil—for many years. That alone gives regulators pause. Earlier this month, officials at the US Food and Drug Administration proposed adding propylene glycol as a respiratory toxicant to its list of “Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents in Tobacco Products.” FDA officials have also proposed regulating all e-cigarette ingredients by 2022.

  • Common additives in cannabis oil vape pens, such as Propylene Glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG), can result in exposure to harmful carcinogenic compounds when heated and inhaled.
  • PEG, PG, and some pesticides degrade into stronger toxins at temperatures that vape pens can reach.
  • Many thinning agents and flavoring additives have been safety tested for ingestion and topical application but not for inhalation as heated compounds.
  • Avoid vape oil products with with PG, PEG, and flavoring agents that have not been safety tested for heating and inhalation.

A new type of additive started showing up in vape carts in late 2018.

Past lab tests have also caught pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, and synthetic cannabinoids in illicit-market cannabis vape carts. Yet we’ve never had clusters of life-threatening lung injuries like we’re seeing this summer.

We don’t know what precipitated the current health crisis. But we do know people used illicit cannabis vape carts last year without ending up in the hospital. So it makes sense to ask: What’s changed recently in the street vape cart market?

New ‘Thick’ cutting agents under scrutiny

Industry insiders who track the legal and illegal vape cart markets closely tell Leafly that a new type of additive started showing up in late 2018, and has since become widely used in underground markets. It’s a novel class of odorless, tasteless thickening agents. These liquids come in different proprietary formulations manufactured by both legal, above-board companies and by shadowy underground operations.

This new additive may or may not play a role in the current health crisis. But it is one of the major new ingredients in illegal vape cart oil in widespread use this summer.

Double-checking cannabis oil

Peter Marcus, communications director for Colorado-based Terrapin Care Station – which also has a retail footprint in Pennsylvania – said his company hasn’t pulled any products off shelves or seen a major downturn in vape cartridge sales, for similar reasons: The company ensures that the cannabis oil in every vape product it sells is pure, uncut marijuana.

“We’re not worried, because we’re fortunate to be a legal, licensed marijuana company that works within (a regulated environment) that prevents products like this from hitting the market,” Marcus said, adding that the company has heard “almost nothing” from consumers who may have worries about the vaping illness outbreak.

“When you have regulatory boards having oversight for products that hit the market, you’re not going to end up with bootleg, cut vape cartridges that have the potential to cause harm,” Marcus said.

“The way I’m looking at it is, this is yet another example that strengthens the case for federal standards.”

Terrapin, like Cresco and others, has also been active on social media regarding the outbreak, re-emphasizing with customers that the vape cartridges it sells are pure cannabis oil minus any extra additives.