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Heating Element Materials...Are vaporizers safe?

Discussion in 'Vaporization Discussion' started by Mister_X, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. Mister_X

    Mister_X Well-Known Member

    When I was doing research into vaporizers, may sites were saying don't buy one with an aluminum heating element, get a ceramic heating element instead. Now I read that the Silver Surfer Vaporizer has an "alumina ceramic" element. Does that mean other vaporizers had pure aluminum heating elements (a really dumb idea)?

    I am still concerned about the safety of vaporizers with aluminum ceramic:
    a) There might be some aluminum that hasn't formed a compound in the ceramic, and thus have some of the effect that hot aluminum could have.
    b) The high temperature of the element could undo the chemical bond in the compound.

    Even if these were both the case it would still be much better than a pure aluminum element, of course.

    I should add that other the vaporizer sites like the volcano don't go into as much detail about the heating element, and will just state that it is "ceramic," if anything at all. :(

    The SSV site claims that there are no toxins or metal ions given off by the element. Does anyone know if anyone has put a vaporizer's output through a mass spectrometer, or done similar testing?
  2. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    You will no doubt get some sarcastic - if any - replies about how you shouldn't worry about this.

    But I agree that if you are going to pay good money for a vape and use it daily, you may as well try to buy one that is safe as current scientific knowledge will allow. That is, sure, later you may find that stainless steel puts some kind of bad vapor, or quartz, whatever. But all we can do is look at known facts and then try to pick a vape that is safe based on what is known.

    The problem is that we are dealing with a somewhat "renegade" technology - using a technology to do something that is still Federally illegal. So there is not going to be much research on vaporizing, so we have to probably make some extrapolations from what we do know about heating temperatures, breakdown of certain metals, and so on. In other words, I doubt anyone has run it through a mass spectrometer.

    I do happen to know a chemist and am going to get his input on some of these questions, if he's willing to discuss it with me and maybe do a little investigation in exchange for some hospitality...

    But don't hold your breath, I'm not sure how long it will take to get his input, nor even if he will agree to it yet. But if and when I get the info I will post it somewhere. Personally, when I hear "aluminum" I stay away from it. Even "anodized" aluminum. It's probably okay, but what if it breaks down? I saw that the Silver Surfer has aluminum grinders which everyone says are great. But they are "powdered" to protect the herb from the aluminum. Is this safe enough? I really have no idea. I just stay away from aluminum. I'm probably too paranoid about it.
  3. rayski

    rayski Well-Known Member

    The Volcano has an aluminum heating block. Here's a good thread at Physics Forum that gets into the safety of aluminum inhalation:http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=171970
  4. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    Rayski, that's an interesting article but I didn't see anything about heated aluminum. They were mostly talking about dust from anodized aluminum in a factory that uses anodized aluminum.

    I know that with cooking utensils some say it is a danger to cause Alzheimers and such, and others say it has proven that it is not. I figure if there's some doubt, I would just as soon stay away from aluminum cookware or aluminum vaporizer or grinder parts. What about these anodized aluminum grinders? Couldn't they create aluminum dust? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not enough to hurt you. But I'll stay away from them anyway as far as daily, long term use. But that's just me. You might say I'm not a fan of aluminum cookware or vapeware.
  5. stinkmeaner

    stinkmeaner Well-Known Member

    Am I the only one that finds these threads a little overboard? I mean come on, people post here in a panic about brass, aluminum, rohs, etc... and every other little saftey gripe and we all know the majority of people probably used aluminum foil, cheap metal pipes, soda cans, and any other contraption they made in their parents garage when they all started smoking.

    Sorry for the rant but it is just funny how people take these concerns so seriously meanwhile 9 out of 10 could probably give to shits what other shit they put on or in their body from hygiene products to greasy fast food loaded with fillers and preservatives.

    Bottom line if you really want to know if these are safe based on factual answers you are better off calling a couple companies that produce cartridge heaters, tell them what you are using it for and see if they are safe to inhale.
  6. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    after several dozen years of daily aerobics and macrobiotic diet, i find i'm more sensitive to the typical "shit" in the american lifestyle ... been there and done that, but not no more.

    by the way, i only like borosilicate glass and bud in my vapor airflow -- no metal, no plastic, no ceramics -- but that's just what i've come to appreciate. And demand.
  7. pollykok

    pollykok Well-Known Member

    The vaporization temperature for aluminum oxide is 5390 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's just for a straight block of aluminum oxide. The heating elements used in vaporizers are sintered into ceramic.

    Any safety concern related to aluminum is due to aluminum itself coming into contact with food or the body, through physical contact, not "vaporization." And even these concerns are highly debated and not truly substantiated, and aluminum is used everywhere in the cooking and food packing world (salt, soda cans, pans, foil, etc..).

    There is no safety concern.
  8. indigal

    indigal Amongst the corn

    Agree 100% :2c:
  9. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    stinkmeaner, I understand what you're saying. My friend asks me that all the time! He'll say, "You're' worried about brass in a pipe to smoke a substance that is of questionable GOOD for your body, and meanwhile you drink tequila and beer..."

    Well, my answer is that it is all relative. Everyone has their own idea of how far they want to go into "being healthy" and it boils down to trying to do "most things" healthy, in a way, to counteract all those bad things you do or did before.

    I see it much like allergies. Let me explain. The way allergies work sometimes is that your body reaches such a high level of exposure to an allergen (dust, dander, mold...) that your body can no longer fight it off and suddenly you have a runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.. Sometimes it takes years and then suddenly you find yourself allergic to something you were never allergic to before. That's medical fact, as far as I know, as to how allergies can suddenly occur.

    So, I see it the same way with exposure to toxins, from cooking, from the air, from vaporizing, from smoking, from walking in the park... Stuff builds up, so I want to limit my exposure to stuff that is bad. There's so much bad stuff in our environment, especially if you live in a big city.

    Okay. Some things you just do and hope for the best: walking in a park is one that I figure IS healthy, but even if it's not (because it's in L.A.! :/ Smog and all...), I would still do it for the other benefits of getting out, enjoying the scenery, feeling good...) Yet I would NOT do it when there's a 3rd stage smog alert... Other things, like maybe playing basketball in a court right next to the freeway at rush hour... that one, I will make a decision to avoid. So it's all relative. Some stuff I'll risk and others I will be concerned about and try to avoid. Drinking alcohol is something I enjoy so I am going to drink even though I KNOW it's bad for me to some degree.

    I am currently using an aluminum stem in my make-shift vaporizer water pipe, because I cannot find a good substitute. I don't like doing it and will quit when I decide which vape to buy and get set up with something safer. So I figure using it for a month or so won't kill me. (Actually I used one for many years, in the past!) But I wouldn't want to use it indefinitely on a daily basis, now, because I don't trust aluminum to be healthy for children and other living things.

    That probably still doesn't make sense to you but that's my thinking on it.
  10. stinkmeaner

    stinkmeaner Well-Known Member

    If you study them hard enough you will find that every vaporizer uses a part of questionable toxicity, Teflon is toxic and it is used in several models due to the fact it has a high melting point.
    Another irony in the market are the companies claiming their clean all ceramic heating elemement is so safe in comparison to the big nasty toxic aluminum heating block in the Volcano, this is very misleading because these same comanies are using a ceramic element made of Alumina "Aluminium oxide". I am willing to bet when these customers are choosing the vaporizer with the "ceramic" element thinking it is the same ceramic they drink their morning coffee out of, most don't realize how many types of ceramic there are, I even have a ceramic knife made of zirconium oxide.

    MoeOnTheMoon- I wouldn't worry too much about the aluminum stem since aluminum has a melting point of 1220.666 F, it would be close to that temperature that any toxins would be released. I would be more worried about alumunim in foods and drugs.

    here is a list from a website of foods and products that contain aluminum:
    Processed cheese
    Baking soda
    Toothpaste (especially tooth whitening products)
    Aluminum cookware and utensils
    Aluminum foil
    Dried eggs
    Dried Milk
    Vending machine powders (coffee, cocoa, soup)
    Milk and cream powders
    Grated cheese
    Icing sugar
    Baking powder
    Cake mixes
    Instant soup powders
    Drinking chocolate
    Buffered aspirin
    Some beers
    Many body lotions and cremes
    Most cosmetics
    Shampoos and conditioners
    Suntan lotions
    Lip Balm
    Foods made with aluminized baking powder*, self-rising flour*, and salt. The following are some of these products:

    Microwave popcorn
    Salted snacks
    Hot cocoa mixes
    Coffee creamers
    Pickles and relish
    *Flour tortillas
    *Pizza crust
    *Baking mixes
    *Corn bread
    *Banana bread
    *Carrot bread
    *Dipping batter for fried foods

    For more info http://home.earthlink.net/~joannefstruve/_wsn/page2.html
  11. choding

    choding Well-Known Member

    The SSV's ceramic heater is made from Aluminum ceramic. (www.silversurfervap.com/glassceramicheatingelement.htm)

    Alumina (aluminum oxide) is the most important, widely used and cost effective oxide ceramic material.

    Small amounts of silica (SiO2), magnesia (MgO Magnesium Oxide) and zirconia (ZrO2 Zinc Dioxide) may be added to alumina ceramics.

    Chronic exposure to silica dust causes fibrotic lung disease. (Brody AR, Roe MW, Evans JN, Davis GS. 1982)

    We studied a likely case of zirconium compound-induced pulmonary fibrosis.
    Forms of zirconium found in nature include zircon (Zr02-Si02), zirconium dioxide(Zr02), and complex zirconates (MZr03)
    We conclude that zirconium should be considered a likely cause of pneumoconiosis
    (Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:1197-1201)

    Experimental subjects exposed to fresh magnesium oxide fume developed metal fume fever, an illness similar to influenza; their symptoms include fever, an illness similar to influenza; their symptoms included fever, cough, oppression in the chest, and a leukocytosis. (United States Department of Labo, 1978)

    The technical alumina ceramics contain at least 80% of aluminum oxide (AL2O3).
    If higher then

    Alumina ceramic (94% alumina)

    Alumina ceramic (97.5% alumina)

    Alumina ceramic (99.8% alumina)

    Welders may also develop pneumoconiosis from tin oxide (stannosis), carbon dust (anthracosis), and aluminum oxide (aluminosis). (Sultan A. Meo, Thamir Al-Khlaiwi, 2003)

    Purple Days

    mouthpiece - polypropylene


    Electric cable (heat insulated)

    Vriptech Heat Wand



  12. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    Choding wrote:
    "Vaporgenie: butane"

    That's why I use an oil candle to light organic hemp wick and use that to light the genie.

    But the way I see it, they're always finding out this or that is bad for you, then a year later you hear that it isn't so bad, or maybe it's good for you.

    So it's all a guessing game, albeit an educated guess. You pay your money and you take your chance. But you take your chance based on relative risks and what is known to be bad vs. what might be bad for you. Then you compromise and place your bet.

    And no matter what the study says, there's usually a study that says that study wasn't legit.

    I see the same thing in the health industry all the time:
    "Vitamin E may be bad for you"... Give me a break. Usually these tests are done by some company with an axe to grind and the test is faulty or biased.

    All I am saying is Give Peace A Chance.
    Oops. No. Wrong forum.

    All I am saying is, you try to minimize known risks unless it's something you really like, like say, drinking alcohol or vaping mj. In which case you take the many known and felt benefits into consideration and say "Fuck it! I'm doing it anyway." :D
  13. Purple-Days

    Purple-Days Well-Known Member

    Funny you throw polypropylene, silicone and butane into a discussion of ceramics... :2c: :cool:
  14. choding

    choding Well-Known Member

    ^ Ah, I thought the main question of this discussion was "Are vaporizers safe?"

    To save the trouble of people searching in the web:

    Plastic #5(PP) is one of the safer plastics (#2, #4, #5)
    Polypropylene (PP): Not known to leach chemicals suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones. Used in: rubbermaid, deli soup containers; straws; some ketchup bottles; yogurt and margarine tubs; and clouded plastic containers and baby bottles.
  15. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member

    Hate to bring up an old topic. I have begun researching the notion of aluminum heating elements such as the one found in the Volcano having the potential to release harmful byproducts or toxins when exposed to high temperatures.

    The Storz & Bickel site states the following "the top temperature reached in the heating block 240C (464F) is by far below the temperature that is needed to emit any substances out of the aluminium alloy AlMgSi, melting point 660C (1220F); boiling point 2519C (4566F) used by us".

    While this sounds reassuring, I still like to see hard evidence before taking anyones word that is trying to push a product off the shelves. Does anyone here have any links to some sort of research or analysis on the subject or even a separate study which would have picked up on such toxins? I have already emailed Dr. Hornby over at B.C. Green Cross to see if he has any information but I am hoping someone here might be able to contribute.
  16. ClemsonVapor489

    ClemsonVapor489 Well-Known Member

    Unless you think he's lying about the maximum temperature of the heating block, the melting point and boiling point should be easily verifiable.
  17. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member


    Certainly not. I think those numbers sound accurate & I think it is reasonable to conclude that the temperature differential is too great for any vapors to be released. However, I think it would be useful to see some sort of data or hard evidence showing "we tested the hot air from the vaporizer & this is the analysis of the composition". I think we are all trying to stay as healthy as possible here & when dealing with hot air being passed over aluminum going straight to your lungs for years, its better to be safe than sorry. Who knows if over time, the aluminum can erode slightly, possibly releasing dust that can vaporize at much lower temperatures. Just want to make sure we dont all end up with Alzheimers in 50 years :)
  18. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    from WebMD:
    the problem is that we use terms like "aluminum" and "ceramic" but those are terms for materials that are manufactured according to unknown quality standards by unknown factories/managers/profit motivations.

    another approach is to decide what materials are healthy to vape with and seek out a vape with those characteristics. for example, i'm fixated on borosilicate glass.
  19. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member


    Definitely agree with you in that it is hard to trust claims from a company with a profit motive. Any "study" can be slanted in order to achieve the desired results. I commend you on building your own device from materials you are 100% trusting of, certainly must be nice.

    For those of us with less than impressive engineering skills, all we can rely on is what is already out there. Im currently doing my best to research the metallurgy of aluminum alloy (AlMgSi ) which is used in the Volcano but am having a hard time. Would be nice to get some more informed or expert opinions on the matter. We can definitely all agree that vaporizing is much healthier than combusting, but what else may be found in the vapor is of concern.
  20. stonemonkey55

    stonemonkey55 Chief Vapor Officer Manufacturer

    Amen my friend! no questions about borosilicate glass :D
  21. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    I think another issue with the Volcano is that the fan is enclosed and I've seen a photo on the web (try google images?) where that thing is FULL of dust! Dust is an allergan for many people and I'd hate to inhale dust every time I take my meds. They should design all vaporizers so that one can get in there and clean it a couple times a year!

    On the other hand, as I said before, we all make our own personal choices as to what is "too risky". For example, even a 35 year vegetarian like myself, people can say, "But why do you drink alcohol then?" Or: "So why do you drink milk?" It's all relative to your own sense of what is safe and also what your own commitment is, as to HOW safe. I admit that milk probably isn't the best thing for me to drink BUT I love it in my coffee and that's my priority! And my decision. It may seem contradictory to someone: So why be a vegetarian and take vitamins and then drink tequila? It's my priority and my decision. Same with vaporizers: each person has to look at their vaporizer(s) and decide: Is there a real risk here or is this something very low on the list of dangers in my daily life?
  22. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the reply Moe. I agree that these dust particles could present an issue for those that may be sensitive to certain allergens & those who prefer to just maintain a clean apparatus. I have emailed a few researchers who have done studies on the Volcano, including those involved in the 2003 NORML Vaporization research. Not quite sure I will get a reply but I guess its worth a try.

    I am including a link to the 2003 NORML study which includes a breakdown of the compounds discovered in the Vapor using a Mass Spectrometer. One issue is that I am not sure if this trial would have detected aluminum byproducts since I dont think they were testing for them. Maybe someone with more of a science background can shed some light on the results:http://www.canorml.org/healthfacts/jcantgieringervapor.pdf

    Also, I came across some more information regarding the aluminum element in another forum which again, someone with a more science oriented background might be able to elaborate on:
  23. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    that last quote makes no sense to me ... the whole point of the aluminum block is to get hot and function as a heat source. i think the idea is if you know the heat capacity of the aluminum and the air flow, you can design the heater so it doesn't drop in temperature as you fill the bag. The Al block increases the heat capacity way beyond what a simple nichrome heating element can provide.

    Been there, done that myself.

    An alternative approach is to drive the nichrome heater in real-time to compensate for temperature drop due to airflow. The advantage of this approach is it is independent of the volume of air flow -- fast draw, slow draw, whatever -- where as the volcano must be designed for a particular size Al block, fan speed, heater response, and power supply current limit.

    The other problem is that all these temperatures basically define the threshold of the material phase change: solid to liquid, liquid to vapor. That assumes a perfect material at standard temperature and pressure (or some such real-world simplifying assumption), with no imperfections that might cause local thermal variations. So, in the real world, it is actually a gradient, not a step function.
  24. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the response. Certainly agree that material imperfections could present an issue. Suprisingly I just received an email back from Dale Gieringer, the lead researcher involved in the 2003 NORML vaporizer studies. I have quoted his response below:
    If anyone here would like to me followup with additional questions, please feel free to post them here and I will email him back.
  25. MoeOnTheMoon

    MoeOnTheMoon Medical Marijuana Activist Company Rep

    S. California
    Yes, I would ask these follow-up questions:
    WHICH other "lighter, non-metallic gases could be present"?
    Has anyone, to your knowledge, done any research on off-gassing from vaporizer heating elements - ceramic, aluminum, stainless steel, etc.?
    And :
    What about the issue of dust inside the Volcano fan area?

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