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Cannabis Products and the Issue of Solvents

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Solvents are used in the professional making of many cannabis products, allowing for the refining and condensing desirable properties in their most robust states. Some products, like live resin, require the use of these chemicals to extract cannabis’ coveted components for use. Others, however, can be made with less risky, solventless methods. Cannabis users should be aware of the possible health risks that can arise from using chemical solvent-extracted marijuana products, enabling informed choices for personal habits. 

The Process of Solvent Use

The role of a solvent is to separate the sought-after compounds and properties of cannabis while getting rid of excess plant material. The product is always some form of oil or resinous good featuring high concentrations of marijuana’s chemical makeup. Solvents have become widespread in the industrial production of cannabis goods to try to reach rising demand. The fact is, chemical solvents allow manufacturers to create large batches at once. To produce THC concentrates in Los Angeles this way, a manufacturer must use ethanol, CO2, or hydrocarbon substances like butane or propane. 

Ethanol extraction means that the chemical is put through the cannabis plant matter. The remaining solution is then placed in a vacuum oven to induce evaporation. This evaporation is intended to purge the ethanol and other substances contaminating the product. In both butane and propane processing, the liquid chemical solvent is pressurized and heated to produce a vapor. The final cannabis product is then removed after purging is deemed completed. In carbon dioxide extraction methods, the gas is converted to a supercritical state using pressure and very high heat. This means that the chemical is in a phase between gaseous and liquid to remove and extract the valuable oil from the cannabis plant.

Consumer Health Risks

While the chemicals mentioned above are not nearly as dangerous as Class 1 solvents like benzene, caution is still necessary for all chemical substances used. Substances like propane and butane are not heavily toxic unless encountered in high concentrations. However, smaller amounts of exposure, residual or otherwise, are still considered a health issue, especially when added up over time. 

Given butane’s low cost, it is one of the most common cannabis solvents, allowing for rapid extraction and production. Higher levels and prolonged exposure to the chemical have been linked to organ failure, heart problems, and respiratory issues. Though more research is needed, ethanol has also been found to be related to some worrying conditions, especially addiction. Still, other solvents are under suspicion as being possible carcinogens.

While these compounds are not directly added to cannabis during production, benzene, xylene, and hexane can contaminate goods due to their tendencies to contaminate the previously mentioned solvents. Benzene is a known carcinogen, particularly targeting bone marrow in the body. Yet, small amounts are allowed in some marijuana products. Xylene’s dangers come out to play when the chemical is in vaporized form. It then can have a negative effect on the central nervous system, and cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches. Similar to xylene, hexane is dangerous when in a gaseous, vaporized state, depressing the central nervous system if encountered at a high enough concentration.

One way of avoiding potential risky exposure to toxic substances is to purchase cannabis products solely from reputable sources and licensed vendors. For example, THC cartridges and full melt in Los Angeles are guaranteed to be of higher quality, helping to alleviate worries about the presence of toxic by-products in both recreational and medicinal marijuana. Cannabis testing is another way, which is one huge advantage of legalized cannabis. Producers of legal marijuana are required to carefully purge out remaining chemical solvents during extraction. To ensure this is carried out properly, regulations and testing for contaminants are implemented.

Yet another important form of avoiding potential health risks is by switching to solventless products. Not all, but many cannabis extracts and concentrates, full melt hash in Los Angeles, can be made using heat, cold, pressure, and water alone. Solventless goods do not use chemicals at all, avoiding the issue of contamination altogether.

Risks for Producers

Consumer safety when consuming products like THC oil in Los Angeles that have been produced with a solvent, is not the only issue of wellbeing the cannabis industry faces. Manufacturers, both industrial and small scale, must understand the risks associated with working with solvents, taking measures to avoid dangerous situations as much as possible. The risks are compounded given the fact that equipment for cannabis extraction is not standardized. 

Working with flammable substances, both gases and liquids carry a risk of exposing workers to toxic vapors. Furthermore, the accumulation of marijuana dust is an issue where there is not enough ventilation, an issue that can cause workers to develop respiratory problems. These are both compelling reasons to install effective ventilation, something crucial to the working area. Also, some machines and equipment utilized in the extraction process feature extremely high levels of pressure, up to 10,00 psi. As such, dangerous explosions can occur if installation, design, maintenance, or modification is carried out improperly.  

Following certain procedures allows for greater preservation of safety, including the use of extraction areas and rooms solely for that purpose, the grounding of all electrically conductive machinery, and using only closed-loop systems during processing and extraction. Moreover, detectors for CO2 leaks and flammable gases must be installed properly and kept in working order. For extraction areas using CO2 alone, there must be an efficient and dependable piping system put in place to release any excessive CO2 to the exterior. 


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