How to navigate the hidden hazards of the UK CBD market

How to navigate the hidden hazards of the UK CBD market

The CBD market is fast becoming a multi-billion-pound market thanks to the CBD health craze – hailed as a magic bullet for almost anything that ails us.

Guest contributor Marc Davis, President of Capital Markets Media, explores the CBD market – here we gain an insight into the growing multi-billion-pound world of CBD.

People are increasingly turning to CBD to remedy a diverse array of health conditions, while rejecting the cynical profiteering of ‘big pharma,’ which has infiltrated all too many millions of people hooked on pain relieving opioids and antidepressants. It has also become a big seller in the UK’s best-known pharmacies, health stores, department stores, and supermarkets – contributing to the growth of the CBD market.

Among the variety of CBD products for sale are oils for vaping or for oral consumption via plastic syringes, along with tinctures, gel capsules, sublingual sprays, and topicals. Yet, unless you know exactly what to look for in a CBD product, you could be making an innocent but ill-fated mistake – one which could do lasting harm to your health. The problem is that the UK is awash with cheaply made, imported CBD products; and it is anyone’s guess as to how many of them contain illicit chemicals that can put consumer health at risk.

Admittedly, the government is clamping down on mislabelled products that contain detectable amounts of THC, the infamous psychoactive chemical that gets people ‘high.’ However, when it comes to weeding out the numerous CBD products that may contain dangerous amounts of toxins, consumers have been almost abandoned by government health regulators.

The reality is that the potential presence of tiny amounts of THC in a small percentage of these products should not be the government’s primary concern. Frankly, it’s the hidden, illicit ingredients in some of these products that represent the gravest health threats. They include any number of harmful chemicals, such as toxic pesticide residues (including carcinogenic ones) and other nasty adulterants.

Officials should instead fret over the fact that it’s the most vulnerable members of society who are most at risk – medical patients with compromised immune systems who rely on CBD for its therapeutic qualities.

Don’t be duped: avoid the dangers

This ‘Wild West’ consumer market for CBD products in the UK makes it all the more important for people to become better informed when buying CBD.

The booming UK CBD market has become a cash grab for many unscrupulous operators, especially importers of ‘dirty’ (contaminated) CBD oils. Consumers are at risk due to the lack of transparency as to the origin of many questionable CBD products. Furthermore, there are insufficient government mandated quality controls to guarantee their safety.

Consumers should therefore request to see third party laboratory results that screen for pesticide residues, heavy metals, traces of solvents, and mycotoxins (fungi). A reputable supplier should be able to easily accommodate such a request. Tainted CBD oils can come from anywhere – some disreputable CBD manufacturers import heavily contaminated CBD distillate (a dense oily reduction) from China into Europe and process it into a legally marketable CBD oil.

This way, it can be refined into oils that are honey like in consistency and colour and are sold as EU manufactured products with all sorts of fanciful but legally meaningless labelling such as ‘pure’ or ‘all-natural’ CBD. This misrepresentation successfully gives millions of British consumers a misplaced sense of comfort.

To be clear; not all Chinese hemp is polluted, but it is increasingly grown on a large scale in northern regions of China that are exposed to massive amounts of airborne pollutants, especially the smog like black dust caused by numerous coal and coke plants. This seemingly counter intuitive industry trend is due to the fact that annual harvests of traditional crop staples have been declining as the plants are becoming more and more sickly. However, hemp plants are hardier and able to withstand the onslaught of pollutants.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Hemp is a great bio accumulator, meaning that it absorbs contaminants from the soil just as well as it absorbs nutrients. This translates into the leeching of heavy metals from the poisoned soil into the cellular structures of the plant, as well as the absorption of toxic airborne pollutants. In fact, hemp is so good at remediating adulterated soil that it’s been used for this purpose in Chernobyl.

Furthermore, China is by far the world’s largest exporter of the CBD distillate that is manufactured into the extracted oils found in many popular CBD products that are sold in the UK and elsewhere. This exposes consumers to the threat of an insidious accumulation of synthetic toxins and heavy metals, which could ultimately cause contaminated CBD products to do far more harm than good.

Exposing the potency and purity scams

Another key problem with so many products on the market is that they have very low potency, often much lower than even what is declared on the labelling. This means that people sometimes end up buying products that contain such little CBD that they have no meaningful therapeutic effect which is unconscionable. People are being cheated at the expense of their health and wellbeing.

A recent Italian study of CBD products sold across Europe found that most were badly mislabelled as to their potency and ingredients. Two thirds were shown to be far less potent than their labelling claimed. Other studies have shown that many products contain hardly any CBD at all. Worse still, some products are even intentionally doctored with undeclared ingredients to mimic the relaxing effects of CBD. They include DXM, a potentially addictive cough syrup chemical that has a mildly sedative effect because it’s an opioid derivative.

Sooner or later, the advent of strict safety and quality control regulations in the UK will lead to a much-needed industry shakeup – one that will favour self-regulating manufacturers of unadulterated, pharmaceutical grade CBD products. Until then, it’s caveat emptor for medical patients and health conscious consumers alike.

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle now. Patients are increasingly using CBD oils freely for both medically documented ailments and self-diagnosed health issues. So too is anyone who just wants to make CBD a key ingredient in a recipe for a healthy, holistic lifestyle. Frankly, people in Britain deserve better access to safe, unpolluted CBD products of consistent quality and potency. Until the industry is better regulated, consumers need to watch out for their own safety by making well informed purchasing decisions.

About the author

Marc Davis is the President of Capital Markets Media (CMM) and co-founder of the ‘Women, CBD and Medical Cannabis’ Conference. A former journalist and venture capitalist, he is regarded as a highly knowledgeable global cannabis expert and has worked with the biggest names in the cannabis industry, including Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth and The Green Organic Dutchman.

Marc Davis
Capital Markets Media
Tweet @mldjournalist

Please note, this article appeared in issue 11 of Health Europa Quarterly, which is available to read now.

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