Abstrax Tech is Taking a Lead in Research to Protect Consumers
We, the employees and owners of Abstrax Tech, are deeply concerned about recent reports of serious health problems associated with vaping. The community affected by these reports are our family, friends, and business associates. Their health and safety, and that of the general public, are of special concern to us.
We are leaders in the study and production of botanical and cannabis-derived functional flavors and fragrances (also known as terpenes) and offer the largest catalogue of award-winning, botanically derived terpene blends on the market. Our products are used in many consumable applications including food, beverages, personal care products, and cannabis related products. We are proud to work directly with the best brands and product developers in these industries and take our role in supporting our customers very seriously. We also believe our presence in the industry obligates us to participate in finding solutions that protect the health and safety of the community we serve.
We’ll discuss this a little more later, but first we’d like to explore how things got to this point. Reports of vaping-related health problems have suddenly become a major issue to the industry and consumers, and it is important to provide some understanding of these recent developments.
Over the past decade, the market for inhalable products has grown rapidly. This has been driven largely by the electronic cigarette industry, although more recently the cannabis industry has seen the same type of rapid growth of inhalable products. The popularity of these products has resulted in a proliferation of manufacturers and the introduction of differentiated products for enhanced consumer appeal. A consequence of this growth and differentiation has been an increase in the types of ingredients that are used to adjust the potency and viscosity of these products.
In the inhalable cannabis market, potency is an important consideration. One simple way that people determine potency is to turn a cartridge upside down and look at the mobility of the air bubble in the cartridge. Since THC is a high-viscosity oil, the faster the bubble moves the more the product has been cut or diluted. In the legal market, a consumer would simply look at the potency sticker to determine the THC content. However, on the black market there are no compliance labels, so instead the consumer must rely on the quick and unreliable bubble test. In response, unregulated manufacturers sought out thickening agents to cut the THC oil while maintaining the viscosity, thus misleading the consumer. We believe this is where new diluent ingredients like Vitamin E acetate (aka tocopheryl-acetate), a very viscous, oily compound, entered the market.
In addition, as growth in the market for legal, regulated vaping products has accelerated, the black market for these items has grown as well. Black market products appear to be ubiquitous, and since they are unregulated the consumer has very little idea of what these products contain. As regulators, the media, health care providers, and the vape products industry itself have become more aware of the growing health concerns, there has been an active, if somewhat disjointed, effort to identify and eliminate the cause (or causes) of these health concerns.
Recent reports have suggested that ingredients used to dilute vaping liquids may be the culprit, but other studies have reported that pesticide residues in unregulated vape products may ultimately be the cause. The science behind these claims has merit, but there isn’t yet enough data to make definitive statements about the cause and the “cure”. Initial reports identified Vitamin E Acetate as a potential cause, and a subsequent study showed that black market products disproportionately contained both Vitamin E Acetate and pesticide residue contamination. The presence of pesticide residues, especially Myclobutanil, is of particular concern as it has been shown that Mycolobutanil can potentially degrade under vaping conditions to produce hydrogen cyanide, an extremely toxic chemical. In addition, a recent Mayo Clinic study reports that the lung damage associated with these reports of vaping-related lung problems appears to more resemble damage from chemical exposure rather than exposure to oily substances like Vitamin E Acetate.
While it is not yet proven that Vitamin E Acetate is the culprit in these vape-related illnesses, we want to assure you that we have never used Vitamin E Acetate in any formulations and do not use it in any current products.
ABSTRAX TECH’S PROMISE & SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
We have and will continue to aggressively monitor the available scientific data to assure the safety of our products. We will also continue to execute and fund research that contributes to the body of scientific information on the safety of inhaled substances.
In early 2019, prior to the reports of vape-related illness, we challenged ourselves as a company to address the lack of publicly available information about the safety of inhalable products by establishing a research collaboration with the University of California Riverside (UCR). Since then, this partnership has been studying the safety and efficacy of substances used in the formulation of vape products. These substances include carriers, diluents, terpenes, and other functional additives.
In addition, we initiated our own study of the components of vape products and the changes they undergo during vaping. The goal is to answer two fundamental questions: (1) What are the identities of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) formed from various diluents under realistic vape conditions, and (2) What are the potential health impacts of these volatile compounds on human lung cells? To perform these studies and effectively answer these questions, we are leveraging some of the most sophisticated analytical tools available.
As we complete our studies, it is our intention to publish our peer-reviewed findings so that the entire community can benefit. Moreover, if we become aware of any evidence that our products may pose a risk to the consumer, all customers will be informed immediately. In matters such as these, we believe in principle over profit -- the health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance.
Max Koby, Kevin Koby and Jack Peat III
(and the entire Abstrax Tech Team)