*NEWS: Abstrax Tech Addresses Vape-Related Health Issues with Research Lab and University Research Collaboration

Reports of vaping-related health problems have become a major issue to the industry and consumers.

Over the past decade, the market for inhalable products has grown rapidly. The popularity of these products has led to a proliferation of manufacturers and the introduction of differentiated products for consumer appeal.

A consequence of this has been an increase in the types of ingredients that are used to adjust the potency and viscosity of these products, according to an Irvine company that makes botanical and cannabis-derived terpenes.

Terpenes are botanical and cannabis-derived functional flavors and fragrances. The terpene market is expected to grow to $35 billion by 2024.

Abstrax Tech said it’s doing research to address the public concern over recent illness and deaths, as the result of harmful dilution compounds found in some black market vape cartridges.

The company – whose terpenes are used by “leading” brands in the food, beverage, personal care and cannabis industries – said it has identified “a potentially dangerous void” in safety information on this topic.

So it’s using its recently-completed $3 million, state-of-the-art research and product development facility to do something about it. This lab is equipped with the tech and analytical tools to study cannabis aroma/flavor compounds that are used in vape products, as well as products involving the skincare, wellness, personal care and food & beverage industries. It finished the lab in September.

Its research team – led by two Ph.D. scientists – has undertaken its own investigation to characterize the volatile components generated from commonly used diluents under vaping conditions.

The company claims it has shifted “significant” resources to this study.

The goal is to provide answers to two 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?

Also last year, the company formed a research collaboration with UCR. This partnership has been engaged in studying the safety and efficacy of substances used as carriers, diluents, and stabilizers in the formulation of inhalable products – a partial list of these ingredients includes fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil), propylene glycol (PG), triethyl citrate (TEC), Vitamin E acetate, and “natural extracts.”

Abstrax Tech said it included its own products in the UCR evaluations as well.

Warnings for Those Who Vape

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,” CEO Max Koby said in an October 23 press release issued by the company.

“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 can 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 intentionally misleading the consumer. This is where Vitamin E acetate (aka tocopheryl-acetate), a very viscous, oily compound, entered the market.”

Black market products appear to be ubiquitous, according to the company, and since they are unregulated “the consumer has very little idea of what these products contain,” according to the press release.

Abstrax Tech claims it has never used Vitamin E acetate in any formulations and does not use it in any current products.

“As we complete our studies, it is our intention to publish our peer-reviewed findings so that the entire community can benefit,” continues,” CEO Max Koby said in the release.

In the meantime, Abstrax Tech stresses that consumers should not purchase vape products from the black market or China.

And, the FDA is recommending that consumers “avoid buying vaping products of any kind on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores.”

If consumers use THC-containing vaping products, the FDA suggests they monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if they are concerned about their health.

Or could it be pesticides?

“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,” Kevin Koby, founding partner and chief science officer, said in the release. “The science behind these claims has merit, but there isn’t yet enough data to make definitive statements about the cause and the cure.”

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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