Report: Unregulated THC Vapor Cartridges Often Contain Dangerous Additive

Los Angeles, CA: Unregulated THC vapor cartridges often contain vitamin E oil, according to a recent investigation by NBC News.

The inhalation of vitamin E oil, which is sometimes added to unregulated e-liquid products in an effort to thicken their consistency and to mask dilution, has previously been linked with incidences of lipoid pneumonia. An advisory issued last month by New York State health officials identified "very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing [vapor cartridge] samples analyzed."

The NBC News investigation reported that 87 percent of the unregulated THC cartridges they analyzed tested positive for the presence of vitamin E oil. Many of the products also tested positive for the presence of pesticides. By contrast, "Of the three purchased from legal dispensaries in California, the CannaSafe testing company found no heavy metals, pesticides or residual solvents like vitamin E."

Updated data released on Friday by the US Centers for Disease Controls reported over 800 cases of acute respiratory distress linked to the use of portable vapor cartridges used to consume e-liquids. Of the products tested thus far by the US Food and Drug Administration, about half have identified the presence of vitamin E acetate. Most of the products linked to lung illnesses have been traced to the unregulated, "informal" market, the agency reported.

These findings reaffirm the variance in the safety and the quality of cannabis-related products available on the unregulated market versus those on the state-regulated retail market, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. "Consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal; quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace."

In recent days, lawmakers in Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington have moved to impose bans on the sale of flavored vaping and/or e-cigarette products, while the Governor of Massachusetts has enacted a temporary ban on the retail sale of all vaping products, including the sale of state-regulated products at licensed cannabis dispensaries. Oregon’s Governor is considering implementing a similar emergency ban.

Additional information is available from the CDC. An advisory issued by California NORML is online. An investigation by reporters at Leafly.com examining the unregulated, underground vapor cartridge market is online.