New evidence from a Portland State University study suggests that vaping cannabis products could expose you to a deadly chemical known as Ketene.
The Portland State University study revealed the potential dangers of vaping cannabinoid acetates, finding that when cannabinoid acetates are heated under vaping conditions, the toxic gas ketene is released that can be extremely harmful and even fatal to the user.
The research, published in Chemical Research and Toxicology, provides unprecedented insights into the risks of vaping cannabis products and infers that more research is necessary to evaluate the safety of this relatively new phenomenon.
Dangers of ketene
The research team previously identified ketene in 2019 while studying vitamin E acetate in the emissions from a commercial e-cigarette. This led to the team theorising that ketene was potentially responsible for the vaping-induced lung injury outbreak in 2020 that led to the hospitalisations and deaths of around 3000 people in the US.
The chemical structure of vitamin E acetate is very similar to cannabinoid acetate products currently on the market, which led the team to theorise that vaping cannabis products could elicit similar ketene-causing effects.
Impacts of vaping cannabis
Psychoactive cannabis products have become increasingly prevalent in the United States, are available online and in vape shops and are predominantly unregulated. Cannabinoid acetates, such as Delta 8 THC acetate, can be bought over the counter but are not sold in cannabis dispensaries and is currently unregulated by the FDA.
The acetate group that is utilised in products like Delta 8 make it easier to cross the blood-brain barrier, which makes it significantly more potent. The researchers explained that this chemical reaction that is similar to how morphine becomes heroin.
To study the effects of vaping cannabis, the team analysed the chemicals based on one puff. The results illuminated that not only did ketene form at lower temperature settings than previously believed but also at levels known to be dangerous for human health. The team said that the intake for people vaping cannabis products might be higher because they vape more than a single puff.
Kaelas Munger, a doctoral student at Portland State University, said: “The thing we’re most concerned about is prolonged exposure; we don’t know what that is. That’s why papers like ours are needed. Otherwise, people would be exposed to this really toxic substance, and it’s really impossible to look for the evidence.”
The researchers also noted that ketene is virtually untraceable in the human body due to being so reactive with biological molecules.
Robert Strongin, who led the study, concluded: “That’s why it is so necessary to continue investigating potential sources of human exposure.”
The team is looking to work with regulatory agencies to alert consumers and regulators about their findings.