New research published in the journal ACS Omega from Portland State University (PSU) shows that high temperature dabbing causes the release of noxious chemicals. What does this mean for medical patients? Is it really so dangerous?
“The higher temperatures go, the more risk that (users) will be inhaling things that could be harmful,” said Dr. Robert M. Strongin, principal investigator on the study.
Some dabbers like the “burn” of a relatively high-temp dab because it reminds them of smoking, and though many more prefer low-temp dabs, it has long been considered to be a matter of taste.
However, the work done at PSU has shown that this is no longer a matter of taste; high temperatures put dabbers at risk for inhaling methacrolein (a very noxious chemical) when dabbing at temps above 600°F, and large amounts of benzene (a potent carcinogen) when dabbed above 950°F. At temperatures lower than 600°F, methacrolein was still detected, but in very small amounts.
This study sounds scary at a first glance, but the fact that toxicologists have begun to look at dabbing may in fact be the first time dabbing has gained legitimate attention by medical scientists.
The levels of the toxic product identified, methacrolein, goes down significantly at temperatures lower than 500°F. The values got so low that the main method of detection could not pick it up, but it was detected by the other method the researchers used.
Break out the carb caps and e-nails, they may be the best way to stay safe. However, people with compromised immune systems should probably stay away from dabbing or vaping all together and should get their medical cannabis from edibles.
Despite the legality of cannabis on the state level in Oregon, researchers at PSU did not perform their research using actual cannabis, likely due to its Schedule I status on the federal level. Their work focused on the terpenes present in cannabis: myrcene, limonene and linalool. They showed that these aromatic compounds responsible for cannabis’ sweet smell can degrade into harmful chemicals like benzene and methacrolein at high temperatures.
Researchers performed the experiments by injecting pure terpenes onto a ceramic nail attached to a small rig. The scientist performing the experiment monitored the temperature of the nail using a specialized infrared camera, and drew the vapor through a glass apparatus that collected vapor for analysis.
Air was drawn through a “mechanical lung” that draws a fixed amount of air when activated. They used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to quantify the methacrolein when vaporizing the terpenes and used mass spectrometry for picking up lower levels of degradants.
The researchers decided to use myrcene as the model terpene for their studies, due to the fact that this terpene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. Some extracts have a majority of limonene in the terpene profile, while others may have mostly humulene, but myrcene is the all-around most common terpene.
Make no mistake, this research is not all dab news for dabbers. People that dab need to start being much more conscious of the temperatures they use, no more high-temp dabs!