Lead Found in Michigan Vape Cartridges

By Paul Gaita 05/02/19

State officials noted that manufacturers outside of the U.S. may still use lead to create their e-cigarette and vape cartridge products.

lead found in vaping cartridges
Vladimir Zapletin | Dreamstime.com

Officials in Michigan are urging the state's medicinal cannabis retailers to test their vape cartridges for heavy metals after several brands were found to have been contaminated with lead.

A safety bulletin issued by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) revealed that the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation (BMR) had identified and destroyed the contaminated cartridges, and encouraged retailers, as well as patients and caregivers, to have their products tested.

Studies have shown that lead and other heavy metals, which have been detected in vapors from e-cigarette products, pose significant health risks to users.

According to the LARA press release, the contaminated cartridges were discovered when the BMR entered the test results in the statewide monitoring system, per Michigan regulations that, as High Times noted, require samples from vape cartridges to be submitted for testing at state labs. The bulletin also noted that lead was not discovered in any ceramic vape products.

As a result of the test findings, the BMR requested that licensed provisioning centers have their cartridges tested. Medical marijuana patients and caregivers that dispense medical marijuana could also have their cartridges tested for a fee at a licensed safety compliance facility.

The bulletin also noted that while federal regulations have eliminated the need to add lead to brass or copper products as was done in the past, manufacturers outside of the United States may still use lead to create their e-cigarette and vape cartridge products. Lead and other metal contaminates can leak into the products' e-liquids when they are exposed to the heating coils. The metals are present in the aerosols produced by heating the liquids, which are then inhaled by the user.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found lead and other metals, including chromium, manganese and nickel, in vapors produced by some e-cigarette products. High Times quoted an interview in Forbes with medical device marketing consultant Rich Able, who said that chronic exposure to these chemicals could have a serious and detrimental effect on users' health.

"Neurotoxins such as lead are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease," said Able. "The other metals listed are even more nefarious to human organs."

Able also noted that federal regulation of such products is key to preventing similar incidents of exposure. "To continue manufacturing these devices to the smoking population without further diligence and clinical review is unethical and unconscionable," he said.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.