Concentrates are becoming the preferred method of using cannabis because you need less of the product to have the desired effect. Have you ever taken a dab and it tasted a little chemically? That might be because you are in fact inhaling chemicals.
The word chemical gets a bad reputation when in reality it's not so scary considering oxygen is a chemical and something we need to survive. However, some of the chemicals you may be inhaling when smoking dabs could be harmful to your health if done improperly.
What Are Dabs?
The term dabs refer to concentrates you can use in a specific smoking piece known as a dab rig or an oil rig. One of the most common forms of concentrates, butane hash oil (BHO), is made by using butane to wash over the buds and leaves, bringing down terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant. The contents of this type of oil go through a purging process in a vacuum or an oven to get the butane out of the product. Winterization is a new technology that has been used where the product is dissolved in isopropyl alcohol, chilled in a freezer, and then the precipitated wax is filtered out.
How Do Dabs Work?
In order to get any vapor out of the concentrate that comes in the form of wax, oil, crumble, or shatter, you have to heat up a nail or banger where the concentrates go. For the most positive effect, many people use a torch that is set to a timer or has a temperature setting. However, there are still those who use the basic Crème Brulee torch which is where they may run into trouble.
Study Explains The Danger Of Dabbing At High Temperatures
When the cannabis hits the nail or banger that is at a high temperature, a chemical reaction occurs because of the changes cannabis undergoes when put through extreme heat. The two toxic chemicals that they studied in the dabbing process were methacrolein and benzene.
[You can read the full study on dabs creating cancerous chemicals here.]
Methacrolein hasn’t been rigorously studied to learn the toxic effects, though they have noted that it is present in polluted air and cause irritation in mice studies. Benzene is known to be a potent carcinogen and is a large cancer risk. During the study, they learned that the hotter the temperature, the more abundant the toxic chemical. Because dabbing is a form of vaporizing, people assume it is better for them and easier on their lungs than smoking. However, when done at incorrect temperatures, this is not the case.
Should I Stop Dabbing?
With the risk of carcinogens, should you put the oil rig away? This is up to you. Are you purchasing your dabs from a reputable supplier? If not, the process that the cannabis goes through might not be as clean creating more of a risk. It would also be a good idea to put the old torch away and use one that has a temperature gauge to prevent you from overheating your nail or banger. For a low-temperature flavorful hit, between 350° & 400° degrees is the best temperature to dab at.
WARNING: don’t go anywhere near the 750° it takes to start creating carcinogens! If you find that you prefer a harder hit and don’t care about the flavor, 600° should be your maximum temperature. Cannabis is still as safe as it's been, we just need to use it responsibly and intelligently.