Vaping Crisis Study Launched by Abstrax Tech

by | Dec 4, 2019

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

As a leading producer and researcher of cannabis-derived aromas (terpenes and beyond), they are unequivocally committed to consumer safety. Before the vaping crisis began, they were already deep into the study of metal impurities found within vape cartridges, but now they have turned their attention to the more pressing concerns of toxic inhalables.

As a leading producer of terpenes for cannabis, skincare, cosmetics, and food and beverage industries, they know flavor is complex, nuanced, and powerful. As such, Abstrax Tech goes well beyond a standard terpene analysis when they work with cannabis.

A standard cannabis lab analysis typically details between 10 to 30 terpenes, but as Abstrax Tech CEO, Max Koby, explains, this isn’t nearly detailed enough. With over 200 known terpenes, and more than 100 already identified within cannabis, a true flavor profile goes deeper than the standard lab test results.

As Koby illustrated, there may be ten unique compounds behind the veneer of the current industry standard for a single terpene isolate, which standard lab reports never highlight. Abstrax Tech is focused on a more sophisticated approach to terpene analysis and creation. It’s through this advanced analysis that the company produces “the most complex terpene profile that is sourced from botanical non-cannabis sources, and makes a more comprehensive profile in the likeness of cannabis, without the cannabinoids.”

The Abstrax Tech to Study Vaping Crisis

There are over 2,000 known cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) as of November 5, 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC now links at least 39 deaths to the crisis as well, with more to be expected.

Because Abstrax Tech has always maintained a strong commitment to research and consumer safety, they have just announced they will be moving significant company resources to address the growing vaping crisis.

With the opening of its brand new state-of-the-art research facility in California, Abstrax Tech has partnered with the University of California Riverside (UCR) to answer two questions:

  1. What are the identities of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) formed from various diluents under realistic vape conditions?
  2. What are the potential health impacts of these volatile compounds on human lung cells?

Under this scope of study, Abstrax Tech is working to identify the compounds in vaping cartridges as well as quantifying the degradants that develop under normal vaping conditions. Its partner, the UCR, then tests these compounds with artificial lung cells to determine toxicity.

Abstrax Tech is investigating a variety of additives, including fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil), propylene glycol (PG), triethyl citrate (TEC), Vitamin E acetate, and “natural extracts,” all of which are common additives in the cannabis vape industry. Importantly, as a terpene producer and supplier to the flavor and fragrance industry, Koby confirmed Abstrax Tech has submitted its products into the toxicity analysis as well.

Manufacturing and Safety Recommendations by Abstrax Tech

vaping experience, vaping crisis

Before the vaping crisis was making national headlines, Abstrax Tech was already investigating impurities of vape cartridges. News reports had highlighted the issue of heavy metals leaking from e-cigarette cartridges in 2018, and as a supplier to the cannabis vaping industry, this became a significant company concern. What cartridges, if any, could they recommend to their customers? What metals and cartridge producers were safe and clean of metal impurities?

In this massive undertaking, Abstrax Tech assessed over 500 cartridges from 40 different SKUs. They tested each with hemp seed oil, distillate, and a combination of distillate with terpenes, all under standard vaping conditions. While they have not yet published the results of this study, Koby explained gold-plated cartridges consistently measured with higher lead content.

With so much of the manufacturing process done overseas, especially in China, the industry is at a high risk of manufacturing malpractice. Products produced in China are prone to highly intelligent knock-offs, both in packaging and product.

“This is why it’s vital there be an industry-wide call to action for brands to only use vendors who are following GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) or that have ISO certifications,” said Koby. “We are working with other industry leaders to form a trade association focused on continued research, regulation of the safe use of ingredients used in vaporizing, and lobbying efforts to support the industry.” 

Koby repeated the call by other leaders in the industry for strict regulation over the manufacturing process. He also called for producers to perform stringent in-house testing on any products sourced overseas and from domestic producers not conforming to cannabis compliance regulations, which in many cases are much stricter than other industries.

For example, many flavor houses will cut products with ethanol as a common carrier, but in the cannabis industry residual solvents of any kind are prohibited. Abstrax goes through great lengths to standardize its manufacturing process by subjecting all-natural botanically derived ingredients to a series of post-processing refinement to ensure absolute purity and consistency to the highest standards. With minimal government oversight and guidance on cartridge and terpene manufacturing practices and materials, businesses must step up to ensure the safety of their products for consumption.

Koby also highlighted the industry-wide lack of education about terpenes in general. Terpenes are not a new product additive within the food, beverage, and the cosmetics industry. But within the inhalable market (vape pens, e-cigarettes), terpenes and other additives are highly unregulated and unstudied. Many natural and synthetic ingredients have known toxins when inhaled, and may not be suitable as a vaping additive, yet there is no regulation of this.

Plus, big-name flavor houses supplying the vaping industry do not always sell terpenes clean of solvents and carriers, which is terrible news for the end consumer. Again, he strongly advises companies to perform additional quality control and require post-processing refinement to standardize terpenes before use within inhalables. Within Abstrax Tech’s standard operating procedures, this is a secondary quality control measure to purify the ingredient, which will prevent impurities and solvents from making their way into the lungs of the consumer.

Vaping Crisis: No End in Sight

Although the CDC has recently announced some headway into the investigation of what is behind the spread of EVALI, the industry has a long way to go before it’s in the clear. Abstrax Tech is doing more than its fair share to support consumer safety through intense study of terpenes and additives, but much more is needed.

With so many additives already in vaping products today (but little is known about their toxicity or degradation under vaping conditions), the vaping crisis will continue to unfold for months to come. “We need more research, safe regulations, and enforcement of black market supporters to prevent the spread of unregulated and unsafe products,” said Koby.

Abstrax Tech will be unveiling its world-class technology and an expansive collection of terpenes at MJBiZCon in Las Vegas from December 11-13.  Visit booth number C4648 to meet the team.

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