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Vaporization Health Research - Real Facts

Discussion in 'Medical Discussion' started by 32paths, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone,

    Over the past week or so, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the health benefits of vaporization, reading through countless medical journals & even contacting lead scientists involved in these studies. I want to share my findings with this community today, in the hopes of helping to answer questions & also with the intention of getting answers to questions of my own.

    To seriously consider the safety and efficacy of cannabis vaporization, there are a few aspects that need to be considered: what elements are present during combustion, what toxins are carcinogenic, what toxins pose health hazards & can we eliminate the undesirables while still efficiently delivering cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc). While we know that vaporization is safer than combustion, the real question is: is it entirely safe?

    A 2003 study done by Dr. Dale Geiringer that was sponsored by NORML/MAPS was designed to evaluate the efficacy of vaporization using a Volcano in terms of cannabinoid delivery & toxin levels in the vapor as compared to combustion. They used a Mass Spectrometer to analyze the vapors following heating the cannabis to temperatures between 155-218 C. Here is a link to the study if you wish to look through it https://docs.google.com/fileview?id...jUtMWZmMy00ZTYwLWE5Y2EtN2E4OTIyYjcxZGNk&hl=en. Without going into too much detail regarding the study, I will summarize the results;
    The major finding of this study was a drastic reduction in non-cannabinoid compounds in the vapor from the Volcano including carcinogenic toxins. However, the study was only testing for gases of HIGH molecular weight. It did not determine whether toxic gases with LOW molecular weight, such as ammonia, hydrogen cyanide & carbon monoxide were present.

    Still with me? Lets move on.

    I emailed Dr. Gieringer regarding his study and whether any followups had been done on the gases with LOW molecular weight in vaporized samples. He responded and directed me to a study done in 2008 by Roger Bloor which sought to detect these exact toxins. Here is a link to this study if you wish to read through it: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id...mQtOGEzZS00NmQ3LTk5YWItMGUwOTAyOGQwMzVj&hl=en

    The study used 2 vaporizer devices (a Volcano & another device called the "Blue Meanie"). I will summarize the results below:
    So the next logical question to ask is whether the inhalation of Ammonia at the discovered range of 50-70 p.p.m. has any adverse health effects. A study was conducted to test the health effects of Ammonia exposure at the 25 p.p.m. level with the results showing no detectable effects on respiratory function.

    What implications does this have for the 50-70 p.p.m. range? This is where I turn to you the community, in the search for answers. It is apparent that Vaporization as a whole is extremely efficient in the delivery of cannabinoids, reduction in carcinogens & toxins & overall a much healthier alternative to smoking. However there is one last piece to the puzzle before we can declare this entirely safe & that is the implications of these increased levels of Ammonia.

    I hope you enjoy these findings & can possibly also provide some insight/information regarding Ammonia exposure based on your expertise/research.
    Alexis, TboneToker, Derrrpp and 6 others like this.
  2. illadelph

    illadelph vaked fresh daily

    home of the illadelph
    good read. :cool:
  3. tdavie

    tdavie Unconscious Objector

    Police State of Canada
    I've yet to read the original papers (thanks very much fir the post by the way), but do recall from my analytical instrument course that some forms of detection (Gas Chromatography I assume) tended to enhance or supress certain analytes. I use only FID (flame ionization detection) and can't speak for other methods, but I wuld want a cross detector comparison to nail down an final answer.


    Dr. Soxhlet likes this.
  4. lwien

    lwien Well-Known Member

    Arcadia, California
    GREAT read and well written. Thank you so much for your research on this and posting it up here. Very interesting.
    goatgobaahh likes this.
  5. quomist

    quomist Rock the Casbah

    Thanks for this.
  6. B.

    B. War Criminal

    I read this a few years ago, and it was the proverbial nail in combusting's coffin. I have given this info to MANY people, and I cannot believe how many understand it's implications yet still shun vaping. Old habits die hard I guess.

    This is interesting:


    The literature on ammonia toxicity in humans largely consists of case reports. In a 1996 literature review, de la Hoz et al found only 94 previously reported cases; of these cases, 20 resulted in fatality and only 35 had clinical follow-up of one year or more.3 Despite lack of data, most literature is consistent regarding clinical presentation and treatment of ammonia toxicity.

    Gaseous ammonia effects at various concentrations are as follows:
    25 ppm or less - TWA
    25-50 ppm - Detectable odor; unlikely to experience adverse effects
    50-100 ppm - Mild eye, nose, and throat irritation; may develop tolerance in 1-2 weeks with no adverse effects thereafter
    140 ppm - Moderate eye irritation; no long-term sequelae in exposures of less than 2 hours
    400 ppm - Moderate throat irritation
    500 ppm - IDLH
    700 ppm - Immediate eye injury
    1000 ppm - Directly caustic to airway
    1700 ppm - Laryngospasm
    2500 ppm - Fatality (after half-hour exposure)
    2500-6500 ppm - Sloughing and necrosis of airway mucosa, chest pain, acute lung injury (ALI), and bronchospasm
    5000 ppm - Rapidly fatal exposure

    I got it here:


    If this is true, we are still safe even if we double the reported 50 to 70 ppm. And even that, i assume, is 2 hours of constant inhalation, not an occaisional rip on a vape.

    What is IDLH?
    TboneToker and Dr. Soxhlet like this.
  7. The_Other_Shoe

    The_Other_Shoe What's Going On?

    As I will probably never read the entire articles linked, thank you very much for the thorough and well explained post. I personally don't believe that 50-70 p.p.m. is a very big factor considering everything else from smoke (that is my personal opinion though), and think that the several known particles in smoke are more dangerous. And my logic is, if people have been vaping for however many years now, and they aren't showing any adverse signs, I should be fine. Although somewhere down the lines there may be a problem (as could always be the case), I think it is still the best method available for consumption.
    Dr. Soxhlet likes this.
  8. vtac

    vtac vapor junkie Staff Member

    FC R&D
    This is good stuff, thank you. I can't read too deep into any of it at the moment but here's a link to a few vapor related studies which you may be interested in if you haven't already seen them. Keep up the good work.


    FC labs needs a GC/MS. Anyone want to donate?
    GrilledGoat likes this.
  9. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    From Wikipedia:

  10. Beezleb

    Beezleb Well-Known Member

    I would also like to thank for this information.

    Next vape is in the name of healthy vibes hehe!
  11. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    Some questions:

    Is there any description of the process creating the ammonia in the vaporization process? Specifically, i'm interested in whether there is more ammonia produced in more concentrated THC (i.e. hash) or whether it comes from the plant material in the test sample -- oh, is there a description of the sample used and how prepared?

    Because i'm seeing much worse chest congestion when vaping some Everclear hash -- compared to the bud it came from. But i think my Everclear hash process is defective because the hash is not very effective. Or perhaps the Bud Toaster just doesn't do a good job with hash, despite the thick vapor -- Or maybe i need to cut the temp by 10F for pure hash.

    And the other three of this group decreases in vapor?
    herbivore21 likes this.
  12. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member

    Hippie Dickie,

    To my knowledge there is no description of the process of creating the ammonia other than it is released within the temperature range of vaporization. The study states that it was not designed to test the exact mechanisms of production of the low MW products of vaporization. The researchers used 2 cannabis samples; one was "street" cannabis that had been seized during various drug raids in the UK & the other was a standard 3% THC level cannabis donated by the NIDA. What should be mentioned is that the 3% Cannabis supplied by the NIDA showed very little Ammonia release during vaporization & combustion as compared to the street samples. The Ammonia concentrations they reported were in the 3-6 p.p.m. range.

    There is no detailed explanation as to why the NIDA samples released significantly less Ammonia although the researchers speculate (and I tend to agree) that the cannabis attained from illegal sources may contain additives which could possibly change the composition of the smoke during heating. These additives typically are the fertilizers and growth solvents commonly used during production which can get into the plant itself. My guess is that THC concentrations dont have a correlation with the amount of ammonia or byproducts being released although this shouldn't be ruled out.

    As far as the fluctuations in the levels of methanol, acetaldehyde & terpenes when comparing vaporization to combustion, the following was noted;

    Vaporization averages*:

    Methanol - 4.6 ppm
    Acetic Acid - 3.6 ppm
    Terpenes - 4.3 ppm
    *no Acetaldehyde was captured using the Volcano vaporizer, the Blue Meanie apparatus reported levels averaging 24.5 ppm.

    Combustion Averages:

    Methanol- 26 ppm
    Acetic Acid- 3 ppm
    Acetaldehyde - 40 ppm

    For a full list of all the compounds released during combustion, you can check out table 3 on page 5 of the second study.
    Dr. Soxhlet likes this.
  13. stonemonkey55

    stonemonkey55 Chief Vapor Officer Manufacturer

    Dude - one of the best threads.......... EVER - let's keep the research going, I eagerly await any further test results and what ammonia at 50 ppm does to our bodies
  14. vaporizeit

    vaporizeit Well-Known Member Retailer

    Really interesting, but I wonder what the rational of using two different samples is? The study does not seem to really say why they used nida samples for the js while using the stuff from the police station for the other. I read it quickly. I agree with the idea that: how can we tell when the samples tested are diffferent?

    Also the j they say vents 10 ppm in the inhaled smoke and 250 ppm in the sidestream smoke from the cig, which is a huge difference. The numbers they produced are really saying the combustion puts off just as mcuh or more ammonia, but you don't get it when you take a drag because it goes in the sidestream, which is hard to believe.

    What if it was a pipe? Would it still go in the sidestream? If you suck real hard on the j, do you get more ammonia than if you suck lightly? Also, they just cranked the volcano up to max and did no testing at different temps. If they did different temps, that would have told us some things.

    Further, the difference between the meanie and the cano could have come from the meanie itself, not from the process, which is something they allude to but don;t really make clear (even though that would be the most obvious reason for a discrepancy).

    Nonetheless, this is a great study because it's the kind of thing that is needed to make vaporiztion viable over the long term. Can't improve the process until you know what to improve. And the fact that they are targeting ammonia as a potential issue looks valid, but there is a lot there that suggests the ammonia is not that much (even though there is also a lot there that says it is too much) and that if the temperture is higher there is more ammonia, and combustion actually puts off more ammonia, it's just that somehow it all goes in the sidestream.

    Finally, who ever heard of a Meanie? They say that is a commonly available commercial unit, which I do not think is true. The Volcano was less than the Meanie, but in the synpsis they just say that vaporizers approached 200 ppm (which is too high) when in fact the meanie approached 200, and the volcano was 70 ppm at it's highest temperature.

    Noted in the study I think was that the "occupational standard" in England was a max of 25 ppm amonia.
    KeroZen likes this.
  15. Beezleb

    Beezleb Well-Known Member

    I wonder if the amount of ammonia would fluctuate if the test material was or was not flushed properly. I can imagine a herb not properly flushed could possibly give off more ammonia than one that was.

    Just a thought.
  16. Durden

    Durden I am Jack's title

    Haven't had a chance to check out the actual research, just the comments in this thread so far, but it seems fairly obvious that the ammonia concentrations (among others) were from shitty materials (either biomass or the vaporizing unit itself) and not from the act of vaporizing. 3-6 ppm on the semi controlled sample is similar enough to the other measured elements that I would theorize it is more accurate than the 50 ppm from the street sample. I remember reading a story last year about people putting glass dust all over their stuff to make it look shiny and nice, and that's much harder to believe than someone washing their material in ammonia to help 'F U up". Even without intent some of the locations for illegal grows are horrible, leaving the possibility for waste contamination or requiring the use of bucketloads of pesticides and fertilizers to produce sizeable crops.
    KeroZen likes this.
  17. DevoTheStrange

    DevoTheStrange Ia! Ia! Vapor Fthagn!

    Somewhere in the mountains.
    I was wondering the same thing. I know of instances where people add arsenic to weed so people think it is stronger than it really is. how do they know that the street sample's ammonia isn't from something added? Doesn't necessarily have to be ammonia itself, the ammonia could just be a by product of something else. Like Pesticides maybe?
  18. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member


    I believe the rational for using the 2 different sample of cannabis was to study what toxicity levels the everyday smoker would be exposed to , since the majority of our cannabis comes from the "streets", not the NIDA. I agree that the discrepancy between the results of the Volcano & Meanie should have been more clearly pointed out. It is fairly obvious that the "Blue Meanie" is not a very efficient device when compared to the Volcano.


    While I do agree with you that the Ammonia difference between the controlled NIDA samples & the street samples is most likely due to the amount of commonly used fertilizers/growth additives, we still cant assume that the results are "outliers". After all, the majority of us are consuming cannabis from unknown growers who are free to use whatever fertilizer/nutrient quantities they like. It is rational to assume that unless you have access to pure controlled cannabis, akin to the NIDA samples, you are at the mercy of the grower you purchase from. Who is no doubt using common chemicals to help spurn as much production as possible.
  19. Hippie Dickie

    Hippie Dickie The Herbal Cube Manufacturer

    where the Cube rules!
    what about organic fertilizers? good or bad ... contribute more or less ammonia?

    lots of further research needed for sure. Where did i put my USB gas chromatograph? i put something down for just a minute and it disappears ... senior moment of some kind no doubt.
    Dr. Soxhlet and tor like this.
  20. 32paths

    32paths Well-Known Member

    Great question Hippie. I think a little more research is needed in that regard. I also was wondering whether it would be possible to simply "filter out" the Ammonia. From some extremely rough, baseline research, it appears as if Ammonia is water soluble, possibly presenting some hope for filtering the vaporized gas through a water pipe, thus removing the toxin. Keep in mind this is simply an assumption but something that certainly should be looked into. One way to possibly do this is to try and find any studies done on the efficacy of water pipes when used with tobacco or cannabis & see if the Ammonia levels were reduced or eliminated. Just an idea.
  21. Durden

    Durden I am Jack's title

    If the issue is with the growing process and not with the actual plant itself then the implications are significantly different than what might be obvious. If the issue is the grow process then that's one more argument in favor of legalization and regulation versus an issue with the plant which would be an argument against it's medical validity.

    I'm in favor of locally grown organic everything so this would be no exception.
  22. Progress

    Progress 'Socratic Existentialist, MD'

    Fuck Combustion
    Thank you to the OP for the time/effort put into the creation of this thread.

    I look foreword to future developments, and plan to contribute when I have the time to reread some of the articles linked and poke around for additional applicable research.

    I do, however, agree that unflushed fertilizers likely contribute to the amonia detected and IIRC the Blue Meanie is your standard POS vaporizer (please correct me if I am wrong).
  23. Lo

    Lo Combustion free since '09

    Wow this is a great thread! Thanks for the information and starting this thread.

    I'd wonder too about the samples, how they were grown and cured thinking the ammonia could vary greatly from sample to sample.

    Years ago I used to use bat Guano and other funky organic fertilizers and I can tell you there is most certainly ammonia in the guano, oh lord did that shit SMELL.

    Many of the organic fertilizers use guano/manure... My husband grows organic veggies and now I want to go read the label of the fertilizer he's been using the last few years to see what is composed of.
  24. mnmlh

    mnmlh Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, interesting stuff. Wouldn't this mean that if you one is to use a water pipe, it might be wise to make sure the water you put in it is filtered? Chlorine from tap water and ammonia could create chlorine gas. :o I'm really ignorant when it comes to chemistry, so - any validity to this, experts?
  25. hereatlast

    hereatlast Well-Known Member

    Great thread 32paths! I've looked hard as well for any medical/scientific research informing the practice of vaporizing MJ; this is definitely an area that needs funding and interest. The possibility of a safe administration of cannabis (and effective! sure Marinol is a synthetic THC but its extremely costly and studies have shown that its not necessarily as effective medically as organic cannabis) could definitely sway policy-change.

    couldn't agree more!

    It seems to me from your research that 50ppm of Amonia shouldn't worry anyone though its hard to argue against trying to make a cleaner vapor. Like others, I'm pretty confused as to the inclusion of the Blue Meanie in the research but perhaps their goal was to compare a high-end unit to a POS? Who knows...

    Great informative thread, more research is clearly necessary to comprehensively understand the vaporization process we all clearly love!

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