In case you have been living under a rock, one of the newest and most popular ways to consume cannabis is something called “dabbing”. For those who have never heard of it, dabbing is done by placing a small amount of extract on a very hot surface called a “nail”, then inhaling it through a water pipe or “dab rig”. Patients all over are turning to this method of smoking extractions due to the high THC content it offers.
There’s recently been some concern that extraction methods, namely butane extraction which creates butane hash oil (BHO), can introduce harmful carcinogens. Forbes did an article on a study released this year that found that when heated to high temperatures (over around 700 degrees Fahrenheit) BHO extracts released some of the same harmful carcinogens as cigarette smoke. However, most people enjoy their dabs at much lower temperatures than that, usually around 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another concern comes from the amount of residual butane present in BHO concentrates. Butane is purged from the oil during production, but some still remains in the final product. About 500 PPM was found to be present, which is around the same amount as you would inhale lighting a joint or a bowl. In addition, it’s much lower than what the Center for Disease Control sets as acceptable, which is between 800-1,000 PPM.
A number of extraction methods don’t use butane. Some use CO2, some are just created with heat or even water. These are obviously a safer bet, but BHO isn’t something that patients need to worry about if they’re dabbing at lower temperatures. There just isn’t enough research on the subject to really conclude that dabbing BHO products pose health risks.
The more the demand increases for extracts, the more important it is to study their effects. In the meantime, keep your temperatures low and your products tested.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.