It appears that unsafe, contaminated, and mislabeled products are still rife in the cannabidiol (CBD) industry. A recent study that was published in The Science of the total environment found that close to 42% of CBD products surveyed were contaminated with heavy metals and phthalates (chemicals added to plastics to make them more durable). The study also found that a high number of CBD products are often mislabeled to misrepresent their potency and purity. This is not the first time that CBD contamination and mislabeling has been highlighted in a study.
Global CBD sales in 2021 hit $5.3 billion. Demand for CBD has been increasing exponentially over the last couple of years as both science and propaganda continue to unravel potential benefits of CBD. The business community is also looking to cash in on the CBD rush. At the same time, regulation of the nascent industry has been beset by a number of challenges, and a major one has to do with product testing.
Hemp, from where legal CBD is derived, is a bioaccumulator. This means that hemp accumulates chemicals from the environment more easily than it releases the chemicals. If these chemicals accumulate over time, they can reach a level that is toxic for humans. For example, lead toxicity has been linked to convulsions, central nervous system damage, and even death. Therefore, all CBD products need to be subjected to third-party testing to ensure that they are not contaminated. Unfortunately, some CBD vendors are unscrupulous and will collude with labs to manipulate numbers.
For this study, the researchers tested over 500 CBD products including edibles and topicals. They considered four heavy metals that are common in cannabis: lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. They also considered phthalate levels as well as mislabelling of CBD products. The following observations were made:
- 42% of the products were contaminated with lead
- 8% of the products were contaminated with Cadmium
- 28% of the products were contaminated with Arsenic
- 37% of the products were contaminated with Mercury
- 13% to 80% of the products were contaminated with different kinds of phthalates
- 42% of the CBD products were not mislabeled
The lead author of the study was Hannah Gardner (Miami Miller School of Medicine) and the sponsor was the Clean Label Project. A previous study that was conducted by John Hopkins University had similar findings of mislabeling and contamination. Such scientific findings underscore the need for better regulation of the cannabis industry to safeguard public health and safety.