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By Jeff Gray, SC Labs Chief Innovation Officer and Cofounder

Addressing the epidemic related to contaminated vape products is not only a top priority for public health officials, it is also a top priority for cannabis laboratories. As public health officials attempt to identify the cause of multiple respiratory deaths and illnesses, one chemical compound remains a potential concern—vitamin E acetate, also known as tocopheryl acetate.

While Federal health investigators do not have enough data to conclude the exact cause of lung illnesses, they are advising users to avoid inhaling this potentially harmful substance. Early reports from health officials indicate vape cartridges with low-quality liquid formulations may be adulterated with cutting agents containing vitamin E acetate. The health effects of inhaling Vitamin E have not been studied, but it appears that vitamin E acetate may be acutely toxic when inhaled and can adversely affect pulmonary functions.

As a leader in cannabis and hemp testing, SC Labs is committed to developing safe and compliant tests for emerging health concerns and product impurities.

It’s the responsibility of each laboratory to provide clarity and guidance for those concerned about potential threats to the cannabis supply chain. When any emerging product impurity is detected, labs need to quickly respond with relevant solutions that limit these risks. For SC Labs, we first attempt to obtain samples representative of the entire supply chain, and in the case of the vape cartridge contaminants, we acquired many cutting agents popular with black market producers. Through advanced research and analysis, we were able to pinpoint each ingredient or additive and verified that vitamin E acetate was a primary contaminant of several black-market products—most of which have only recently entered the market.

SC Labs is pleased that our research team was able to quickly develop an accurate test panel to meet client needs and concerns. As a result, SC Labs offers a laboratory test panel for the detection of several forms of vitamin E, including vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E testing can be added to existing panels to expand detection beyond the range of pesticides, microbial impurities, heavy metals, and other contaminants.

To limit risk to consumers and the cannabis industry, expanded specialty tests need to target an ever-emerging series of additives and adulterants.

Product manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers will be looking to laboratories to refine testing to target an ever-emerging list of product contaminants. To provide definitive results for new compounds, laboratories need to act quickly and employ highly advanced test methodologies—not all laboratories are adept at addressing these changes. Targeting the detection of cutting agents is relatively new to cannabis testing laboratories and will likely not be listed on older test result reports.

While we were an early cannabis laboratory to verify and detect these compounds, our hope is that vitamin E becomes eradicated in future preparations. Now and in the future, as new impurities are identified and regulations emerge, our programs evolve and are uniquely positioned to offer a safer supply chain.