What's Making People That Vape Sick?

[et_pb_section fb_built="1" admin_label="section" _builder_version="3.22" _i="0" _address="0"][et_pb_row admin_label="row" _builder_version="3.25" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat" _i="0" _address="0.0"][et_pb_column type="4_4" _builder_version="3.25" custom_padding="|||" _i="0" _address="0.0.0" custom_padding__hover="|||"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" _builder_version="3.27.4" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat" _i="0" _address="0.0.0.0"]Unless you've been stuck under a rock, you've more than likely heard about all of the illnesses and the handful of deaths that have been caused by black market cannabis vape products recently. Most of the news coverage has been shoddy at best and is leading to misguided, knee-jerk reactions like that of Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker. One can hardly fault him when every headline on the topic is essentially "All Vapes Found to Cause Immediate Death". But what is really going on?

In nearly all of the cases where users have been experiencing pneumonia like symptoms or worse, black market vape carts have been involved. These products are made outside of the existing regulatory framework in place for the cannabis industry. While many of the regulations on the cannabis industry are very loose (especially on finished products), most of the serious players in the industry go above and beyond to ensure that they are exceeding current regulations and setting themselves up to meet the requirements that will surely come with the next round of FDA and USDA regulations. In a typical round of testing at ProVerde Labs, we test for heavy metals, solvents, microbiological contamination, and pesticides among other things that are more helpful with characterization than product safety. The problem with these black market products is that they aren't undergoing this kind of rigorous testing.

In recent reports, the rash of illnesses has been blamed on vitamin E acetate and pesticide contamination. Tocopheryl acetate, or vitamin E acetate, is the more shelf stable version of vitamin E as it is less prone to oxidation. This, combined with its consistency and color being very similar to that of hemp oils and THC oils, makes it a great candidate for cutting THC oils with in these black market vape carts. The issue is largely with the heating and inhalation of any of these long chain lipids. Aggregation of these oils in the lungs leads to pneumonia like symptoms which may be made worse by the acetate form of vitamin E that is being widely found in the black market products. The change in polarity of the molecule brought about by the addition of the acetate group makes it far better at accumulating on the lining of your lungs than vitamin E or other similar oils, compounding the negative effects.

Taking a step back and looking at the pesticides that have been found in some of these products, myclobutanil in particular is very concerning. In a recent article from NBC News, 10 out of 10 black market vape products tested positive for pesticides and all 10 contained myclobutanil (as much as 50x the allowed limit in CA). This pesticide is especially concerning because it acts as a hydrogen cyanide emitter. Myclobutanil is a very effective fungicide that prevents the powdery mildew that is the bane of cannabis growers' existence, and it has been popular in use on grape vines. When heated, however, myclobutanil emits hydrogen cyanide which is incredibly dangerous and toxic to humans. Because of the dangers associated with inhalation, myclobutanil has been banned for use on cannabis in multiple states. This is why it is particularly concerning that it is showing up in the black market products.

So what are we supposed to do about this? Well the first thing we should NOT be doing is banning all vape products as was done in Massachusetts. Taking such sweeping action may earn political points with those prone to emotional, knee-jerk reactions, but it also pushes people directly into the black market to buy products where we know for sure the problem is coming from. In the same NBC News article where 10 out of 10 black market products were found to contain dangerous pesticides, none of the products from licensed dispensaries contained pesticides. While only anecdotal, this is a promising sign that products carried by licensed distributors are much safer than the products we know are making people sick and these distributors should not be punished for the actions of individuals cutting their products with materials that we know to be dangerous when consumed in this way.

Sources:

NBC News - Tests show bootleg marijuana vapes tainted with hydrogen cyanide

Leafly - Amid Vape Pen Lung Disease Deaths: What Exactly Is Vitamin E Oil?

Straight - Myclobutanil: Why are some licensed cannabis producers using this banned pesticide?

Boston - All Vaping Product Sales Are Now Temporarily Banned in Massachusetts[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Gateway Hills CX

Race number 2 of the season brought me to my hometown race or Gateway Hills CX. Gateway Hills is held on a small snowboarding terrain park in the middle of Nashua with terrain that is way more typical of a cyclocross race than the rooted singletrack that I experienced at Blunt Park. On top of having some friendlier terrain, Gateway Hills ran an Intro to 'Cross clinic prior to the race which gave newer riders an opportunity to do a lap with an experienced rider and learn how they saw the course. For someone that doesn't have a local club and has very few opportunities to pick the brain of someone with some experience, I absolutely jumped on this opportunity.

During the into clinic, I was able to do a lap with Jen Murphy, who ended up coming in second in the Women's 4/5 race immediately before mine. This was a great opportunity that gave me some insight into different ways to approach sections of the course. Having the chance to try out tripodding on an off camber with someone to correct you is way better for figuring things out than just sliding down the hill a thousand times until you finally figure it out on your own. Don't get me wrong, I still do that all the time with just about everything but I wish there were more opportunities like this to learn from people that have only recently left the rookie ranks and haven't forgotten what that experience is like yet.

During my warm-up lap on course, I took a pretty nasty crash over my handlebars when I misjudged the slope on a downhill. I tried to course correct and ended up tangled in some safety tape and it was yard sale time. On the way down, my chainring got a little hungry and took a bite out of my shin, leaving me with a nice battle wound that random strangers would continue to point out to me the rest of the weekend.


When the race started, everything stayed more or less together until the first time things had even a minor incline. I was unfortunate enough to end up behind someone that had either a mechanical or couldn't figure out how to get back on his bike. Whatever the case, he was swinging back and forth across the track and at one point slipped, throwing his bike out towards me while he slid down the small incline. With the whole path occupied by one poor decision, I slid out to avoid riding over the top of this mess. I followed this up with the rookie mistake of burning one too many matches to try and catch back up to the field, leaving me burned on the first lap. I wasn't completely fried, and managed to stay with the same group through most of the race. Our small group of back markers turned into a race to just not be DFL. Coming into the finishing straight, I thought we still had one lap to go and the guy that had been riding just off my wheel all day came up around me as I kept riding my pace thinking I had to survive another lap.

Despite making a whole host of rookie mistakes, this race was tons of fun and a great learning experience. I wish more races offered similar opportunities like the intro clinic hosted by Gateway Hills. Now it's time for a short break before three straight weeks of racing in October! Oh and did I mention we got to play with puppies with our post race drinks?

Results:

Category Placing
Men Cat 5 36/42

CompEdge Cross At Blunt Park

For my first season racing cyclocross, this race was one hell of an introduction. The course was made up of largely flat and technical grass and dirt sections with a very long and VERY rooted section of singletrack right smack in the middle.

Before CompEdge I had been practicing on some local trails and had at least a low level of confidence in my ability on the technical grassy sections and through some of the rougher dirt sections. But damn was I unprepared to ride through the singletrack. Every time through the worst rooted sections, I either had to dismount and run 20 feet or had to come to a complete crawl and skirt around the edges and risk ending up in the bushes. In retrospect, slowing down like this was actually worse for making it through the section. Attacking sections like this and keeping a little less weight on the front end allows you to absorb some of the impact and not pinch your wheel and go face first into the dirt.

Obviously easier said than done in the moment.

This was a fun one and going in with zero expectations allowed for me to just enjoy it. This being my first season competing in pretty much any kind of racing in 5 years means my only goal on any given day is not come in DFL.

Mission Accomplished.

Results:

Category Placing
Men Cat 4/5 55/57