Portland State University published results this week for a study on butane hash oil. Butane is commonly used to produce marijuana extracts and concentrates. When it is heated at high temperatures, it can produce significant amounts of carcinogens, the study finds.
Professor Robert Strongin led the study, according to Oregon Live. He says that oils in extracts release chemicals that can potentially cause cancer when heated to 750 degrees. Now, when heated to 932 degrees or higher, the oils release benzene – which is a carcinogen.
Strongin said, “The higher temperatures go, the more risk that (users) will be inhaling things that could be harmful.”
Manufacturing butane hash oil is a dangerous process in itself. Improper manufacturing methods can lead to explosions, fires and other situations where injuries can occur.
Hash oil is mainly used for dabbing. It may also be used to make the liquid for vape pens.
While conducting the study, researchers simulated dabbing by vaporizing terpenes. The terpenes didn’t release any dangerous chemicals when exposed to low temperatures. When heated to 750 degrees methacrolein (chemical similar to acrolein – a carcinogen) was released. When heated higher, to 932 degrees, benzene was released in significant levels.
The levels do, however, remain lower than what is seen in cigarettes. The levels were higher than what is found in just air.
Strongin said, “It’s not a huge amount of benzene but any benzene ingestion is concerning.”
Those using hash oil should be aware of how hot they are heating the nail on a dab rig. Using a torch with a temperature regulation switch is ideal. Without a way to regulate temperatures when heating dabbing nails or concentrates/hash oils for use, concern rises.
Strongin said, “At the upper range of what people are doing, you’ll start to see benzene.”
Previous terpene studies show that electronic cigarettes may release toxic chemicals as well – especially when high temperatures are applied to making the liquid or using the e-cig delivery device.
Professor Strongin did note that those using vape devices are less likely to be exposed to these carcinogens since the devices don’t typically get as hot as a torch or other dab nail heating device.
One CannaSource dispensary employee, Patricia Rodriguez, isn’t worried about the study’s results. She uses hash oil for chronic pain. She uses an electronically-controlled nail. It is a much safer option as it controls the temperature to keep it low.
Rodriguez says that the other dabbers she knows aren’t heating the oil above 700 degrees.
She hopes that the study’s findings don’t “add to the stigma around hash oil”.
She said, “As long as they use carefully, like anything else, there shouldn’t be an issue.”
What Strongin says is the takeaway from the study is to minimize risk of exposure to carcinogens by maintaining lower temperatures when using hash oil, concentrates or other products made with butane extraction or manufacturing processes.
Strongin said, “We don’t want to say things like this is just bad. It really depends on the user.”