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Why the FDA’s data doesn’t apply to Polyethylene glycol (PEG) in vape cartridges

The marijuana industry is still in its infancy, but that hasn’t stopped ambitious entrepreneurs from developing new ways to consume marijuana. In general, products are much more potent than they were even a few years ago, and it’s partially due to the advent of cannabis concentrates. Connoisseurs will be familiar with cannabis concentrates like wax, shatter, budder, crumble and oil, but vape cartridges containing some of these concentrates are appealing to new users for their convenience and ease of use.

It’s not surprising at all. The devices used to consume concentrates can be hundreds of dollars, and people new to cannabis aren’t likely to make such an investment on a whim. So when a bud tender presents a disposable marijuana e-cigarette for under $20 to a brand new cannabis consumer, it will appeal far more than a $50 for a customer interested in vaping extracts.

The problem with some of these cheaper vape products is the additive known as PEG, or polyethylene glycol. As one scientist quoted to me when I asked for a laymen’s summary, “it’s great for getting stuff in and out of other stuff.” It has many industrial applications, but its FDA-approved use in medical applications is how vape cartridge manufacturers justify its presence in their products.

In a cartridge, PEG helps make marijuana extracts more viscous, allowing for better vaporization. This especially benefits disposable e-cig products that have a weak power source. It can be found in inhalers, laxatives, eyedrops and in pills for slowing the rate of absorption, giving the pill a time-release effect.

So what do these applications, and the FDA’s assessment of PEG, have in common? None of them involve the heating of PEG to temperatures much higher than the human body’s core temperature.

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