Some CBD products contain pesticides. There is no governing force preventing this right now. A consumer’s best defense is to check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) on the label. This displays what tests were conducted and their results.
How worried should you be about pesticides in CBD? Well, one report found 70% of tested products were contaminated. The culprits included heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. They also found herbicides including the active ingredient in RoundUp, pesticides, BPA, and even toxic mold. Consumers should be concerned.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clarified hemp regulations in 2019. They added hemp to an approved list for 10 different pesticides. Nine are biopesticides that occur naturally and can control pests. One is a conventional pesticide (synthetic chemical that works by killing pests). So, according to the EPA, there are 10 types of pesticides for use on hemp.
This is good news for CBD users and those who produce it. High-risk, dangerous pesticides are not approved for use. This allows farmers to only use pesticides deemed safe for consumption.
It’s not all good news, though. Even if the only pesticides present are approved, residue may still exceed safe limits. This potentially puts users at risk. Plus, acceptable residue levels are still unclear as the EPA navigates figuring out what pesticide residue levels are safe for human consumption.
Keep in mind that some producers may still choose to use harmful, illegal pesticides in their CBD. After all, there is no requirement to test the CBD for pesticides before it hits the shelves. What’s stopping producers from just going for it?
How do pesticides end up in CBD?
Some manufacturers may choose to use pesticides to keep their plants free of pests. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to flush plants clean of these pesticides. It can cause mold, another issue within the industry.
Hemp is extremely absorbent. It absorbs pesticides applied directly to its surface. But it goes beyond that. It also absorbs contaminants in the ground through its roots. What you apply to and around the plant will remain a part of it. These pollutants can become even more concentrated when extracted into a CBD oil.
What are the dangers of pesticides in CBD?
If you go down the list of accepted pesticides for hemp, you may notice most seem generally safe. Most are naturally-occurring, after all. But excess residue may still be dangerous. There is also a risk that other contaminants are present. Even if they’re not listed.
And if you’re wondering, “do people actually do that?”, the answer is yes. Take this story, for example: Two cannabis dispensaries had to close their doors in 2018 because some products tested positive for pesticides. Not just any pesticides, either, but bifenthrin, a prohibited pesticide for use in cannabis.
The EPA considers Bifenthrin to be a possible human carcinogen. The state of Massachusetts had already banned the use of bifenthrin for cannabis. The positive test results prove that banned pesticides are still in use.
According to Leafly, pesticide residue is worse in concentrates than it is for the plant itself. Hemp and cannabis have different growing regulations but are very similar in structure. Pesticides in cannabis concentrates are worse than pesticide residue on the plant. This translates the same with hemp.
Leafly states that “the processes used to concentrate cannabinoids also concentrate pesticides.” They noted that there may be nearly 10 times the amount of pesticides in cannabis concentrates than in cannabis flower.
In the context of CBD, this is a problem. The majority of CBD products on the market are oils and tinctures, or concentrated forms of CBD. Users should not risk ingesting concentrated pesticides to relieve pain, anxious thoughts, or whatever it is they’re using CBD for.
Red flags for purchasing pesticide-free CBD
If a product doesn’t have a COA available, be wary. Companies should be willing to share proof that they have complied with pesticide regulations. Their product should be labeled accurately for purity and potency.
For the safest option, consumers should go a step further when purchasing CBD. Don’t just look for a product with a COA. Look for a product with a COA from an ISO-accredited laboratory.
Why? Because CBD brands can easily do in-house testing or give their product to their buddy to “test” in their lab. This leaves a lot of room for error, whether intentional or not. Unfortunately, intentional mislabeling is common. Whatever can make the product sell better can sometimes take precedence over safety.
CBD manufacturers pay laboratories to conduct tests for them. It’s no surprise that some of these testing companies may choose to omit potentially damaging results for their products. After all, their clients are the CBD manufacturers, not CBD consumers.
That’s not to say all CBD companies are intentionally mislabeling their products. Some are testing with best intentions but doing so inaccurately.
One study found one-third of cannabinoid content testing facilities in Washington state provided unreliable test results. Researchers concluded that one way to fix this issue is to only test in ISO-accredited laboratories. These labs have proven their compliance with industry standards.
It’s common for in-house laboratories to use equipment that has a “limit of detection” known as LOD. This means that there is a minimum amount that can be detected in a sample. Even if a substance is present in a sample, if it falls below the equipment’s limit of detection, it will show nothing. Therefore, manufacturers can claim they tested zero for that substance.
Pesticides in CBD face a similar issue. There is no federal regulation for CBD, meaning the limits of detections can vary across different labs.
Unfortunately, this serves as a loophole for some manufacturers. By adding extra oil to their substance, they can dilute it until it detects zero. But this dilutes the entire product. It cuts back CBD content and displays a false negative to mislead consumers.
What’s the solution for pesticides in CBD?
It’s clear that the industry needs more oversight. The EPA created a list of accepted pesticides recently. They are working towards a better, safer future for CBD.
But CBD is still not required to be tested. Manufacturers have plenty of room to deceive their customers. Until that changes, CBD users need to take their health into their own hands.
Only buy CBD that has been tested from an ISO-accredited lab for the most reliable results. This ensures that the laboratory is able to conduct tests in line with industry standards.
There are many exceptional CBD companies out there doing everything right. Seek those companies out.
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