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Cannabis Contaminant Testing: Ensuring Purity & Consumer Safety

testing cannabis for common contaminants and purity
As the cannabis, CBD, and hemp markets continue to expand across the United States, it is critical that stringent testing standards are in place to ensure product purity and consumer safety. Cannabis contaminant testing is a step cannabis companies can take to ensure the safety of their products.  Read on to learn why it’s important and what to look for.

Why Contaminant Testing is Essential

Contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, and mold can make their way into cannabis plants and products. When consumed, these contaminants can pose health risks to users. Contaminant testing allows cultivators and manufacturers to identify and eliminate tainted cannabis before it reaches consumers. Some of the main reasons contaminant testing is so important include:
  • Preventing customer illness: Contaminated cannabis, when smoked or ingested, can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, and breathing issues. Contaminant testing protects consumers from these adverse effects.
  • Complying with regulations: Most states with legal cannabis have mandatory testing requirements for contaminants. Regular testing ensures that cultivators and manufacturers remain compliant.
  • Maintaining product integrity: Contaminants can degrade the quality of cannabis. Testing helps cultivators deliver clean, high-quality cannabis to manufacturers and retailers.
  • Building customer trust: Transparent, third-party testing gives customers confidence that legal cannabis products are safe for consumption. This trust is critical for the legal market.

Common Contaminants in Cannabis & Associated Health Risks

The primary categories of contaminants screened for in cannabis testing include:

Pesticides

Many pesticides are banned for use on cannabis because of their health risks. However, some cultivators still apply non-approved pesticides. When smoked or vaped, these pesticides release toxic chemicals. Short-term effects of exposure include headaches and lung irritation. Long-term exposure may increase cancer risks.

Heavy Metals

Cannabis plants can uptake toxic heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead from the soil. Inhaling heavy metal particles from smoking cannabis can damage the lungs and nervous system. Chronic exposure to heavy metals also leads to organ damage.

Microbial Contaminants

Microbes like mold, bacteria, and yeast naturally occur in nature but can grow out of control in cannabis plants. Inhaling mold spores can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory distress. Some bacteria and yeast create toxic byproducts that irritate the lungs. Immunocompromised individuals face the highest risks from microbial contaminants.

Solvents

Manufactured cannabis products, like extracts and vape oils, sometimes contain traces of dangerous solvents. These solvents include hexane, propane, and acetone. Exposure to solvents can cause dizziness, nausea, and organ damage. Strict limits ensure solvent residues fall below dangerous levels.

The Cannabis Testing Process

Responsible cannabis companies utilize third-party labs to test their products for purity and potency. Here is an overview of the cannabis contaminant testing process:

Sample Collection

The testing lab receives a representative sample from the cannabis batch to be tested. Proper sampling ensures contaminants will be detected if present. The sample is logged and given a unique identifier for tracking.

Sample Preparation

The sample is dried, ground up, and homogenized. This prepares the cannabis for solvent extraction of compounds to be tested. The extraction solvent varies based on the analyte.

Screening Tests

The extracted sample first undergoes screening tests like HPLC or GC-MS. These methods quickly scan for a wide range of potential contaminants. If contaminants are detected, the sample moves to confirmatory testing.

Confirmatory Tests

More specific and sensitive methods like LC-MS/MS confirm and quantify the contaminants found in screening. The detected levels are checked against regulatory limits to determine if the batch passes or fails.

Certificate of Analysis

The lab compiles all the test results into a certificate of analysis (COA). This COA serves as an official record of the sample’s safety and cannabinoid content. Testing facilities provide COAs to cannabis companies and may make them available to consumers.

How Qredible Protects Consumers

As a cannabis consumer, you want full confidence that the products you use are safe and free of dangerous contaminants. However, not all cannabis on the market today is lab-tested. Qredible offers a solution with our upcoming consumer directory, Qredible for Consumers. Qredible will analyze our database of lab results to verify the product’s testing status and provide full contaminant testing transparency. With Qredible for Consumers, you can consume only lab-tested cannabis that contains no harmful levels of pesticides, heavy metals, or other contaminants. You’ll have peace of mind knowing the cannabis you use meets the highest safety standards. Sign up now to be notified at launch and help us build trust through cannabis product testing transparency. Qredible for Consumers will empower you to make informed choices to protect your health and safety. 
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