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Common Contaminants Found in Hemp Plants and How Cannabis Testing Labs Detect Them


Hemp is a versatile plant. Hemp fibers can be used to make clothing, paper, rope, and even concrete. It’s also known for its medicinal uses and its ability to help with anxiety or stress reduction. But before you can enjoy the benefits of hemp products. They must first be tested to ensure they’re free of harmful contaminants.

Cannabis testing labs like BelCosta Labs are on a mission to help suppliers of hemp, hemp extracts, and CBD test their products for contaminants. But what exactly are these contaminants, and why do they matter? We’ve broken down the basics so you understand what we’re looking for and why it’s important to you as a consumer.

Common Contaminants in Hemp Plants

Hemp plants have a reputation for being among the most non-toxic crops out there. However, hemp is not without its contaminants. Some of these contaminants can pose health risks to humans who consume or use hemp products including the following:

Heavy Metals

Cannabis plants absorb heavy metals from the soil in which they are grown, including lead and mercury. These substances can have extremely damaging effects on the human body, ranging from neurotoxicity to birth defects to organ failure.


Pesticides are chemicals used to kill harmful insects or destroy disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. Also, pesticides have serious health effects and can cause cancer in humans. As well as damage to developing brains, nervous systems, and reproductive systems.

Residual Solvents

Chemical solvents are used in various types of extractions to produce concentrated cannabis products. The solvents can be hazardous if inhaled or ingested.

Microbial Contaminants

Microbial contaminants are probably the most common threat to the quality of raw hemp material. It can occur in fields, during harvest, during storage and transportation of the stems, during processing into seed products, or during other steps in production. The damage that microbial contaminants do is quite complex and can range from major spoiling of products to lower-grade material and degradation of stored seeds.

Regulations and Guidelines

There are various regulations and guidelines set forth by regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EPA, and others that establish acceptable levels of contaminants in hemp and cannabis products. These regulations aim to ensure that consumers are not exposed to harmful contaminants when consuming or using these products.

For example, the FDA has issued guidelines for the acceptable levels of pesticides in hemp and cannabis products. The guidelines establish maximum residue limits for various pesticides commonly used in agriculture. Similarly, the EPA has established guidelines for acceptable levels of heavy metals in soil and water, which can impact the levels found in hemp plants.

BelCosta Labs adheres to these regulations and guidelines by using advanced equipment and techniques to accurately detect and quantify contaminants in hemp and cannabis products. The lab’s testing process includes screening for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and microbial. 

The company also follows established testing protocols and procedures to ensure accurate and reliable results that meet or exceed regulatory standards. In addition to adhering to established regulations and guidelines. BelCosta Labs also provides consulting services to clients to help them understand and comply with state and federal regulations related to hemp and cannabis testing and safety.

Testing Methods

Cannabis testing labs use a variety of testing methods to detect contaminants in hemp and cannabis products. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common testing methods and their advantages and disadvantages:

Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is a technique used to identify and quantify the compounds present in a sample. This method is highly sensitive and can detect contaminants at very low levels. It works by ionizing the molecules in the sample and measuring their mass-to-charge ratio. 

One of the main advantages of mass spectrometry is its ability to identify specific compounds, making it ideal for detecting pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents. However, it requires complex equipment and trained personnel to operate and can be expensive.

Gas Chromatography

Gas chromatography is a technique used to separate and analyze the compounds in a sample. This method works by vaporizing the sample and passing it through a column, where the compounds are separated based on their chemical properties. Gas chromatography is often used to test for residual solvents and terpenes. 

One of the main advantages of gas chromatography is its ability to separate and analyze complex mixtures. However, it requires a high level of technical expertise to operate and can be time-consuming.

Microbial Testing

Microbial testing is used to identify and quantify bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms present in a sample. This method works by culturing the sample on agar plates and observing the growth of colonies. 

Microbial testing is essential to ensure that products are free from harmful microorganisms that can cause health issues. One of the main advantages of microbial testing is its ability to detect a wide range of microorganisms. However, it can be time-consuming and requires strict adherence to sterile laboratory procedures.

BelCosta Labs’ Testing Process

BelCosta Labs is committed to using advanced equipment and technology to detect contaminants in hemp and cannabis products. Their testing process is highly specialized and involves several steps to ensure accurate and reliable results.

To measure residual levels of solvents, BelCosta Labs uses Headspace Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry (HS-GC-MS). This method is highly sensitive and can detect solvents at very low levels, reported in parts per million (ppm).

For compliance with the State of California’s regulations, BelCosta Labs uses Liquid Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry (LCMS) and Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) to detect and quantify the 66 analytes required for analytical testing. This includes residual pesticides and fungicides, which are tested to ensure compliance with state regulations.

In addition, BelCosta Labs has a highly trained microbiological team that can rapidly screen for microorganisms potentially found in cannabis products using qPCR and genomic screening. This ensures that their testing process is compatible with the guidelines set forth in the FDA Bacteriological Assessment Manual.

BelCosta Labs prides itself on its team’s expertise and knowledge of the latest testing methodologies and equipment. By utilizing advanced technology and strict adherence to established testing protocols, BelCosta Labs ensures that hemp and cannabis products are safe and free from contaminants.

Benefits of Cannabis Testing

In the cannabis industry, the importance of testing cannot be understated. This is especially true for consumers, growers, and manufacturers.

For Consumers

For consumers, testing is important because it helps them to know what they’re buying. The cannabis industry is still in its infancy, so there are some concerns that there could be harmful chemicals in the product that may lead to negative health effects. For example, if you have an allergy to mold or fungus and you purchase a cannabis product that contains spores of these things, you could develop an allergic reaction after consuming it.

For Growers

When it comes to growers, testing is essential because it helps them to ensure that their products are safe for consumption by humans and animals alike. It also ensures that its products are free from pesticides or other harmful chemicals. If this isn’t done correctly, then it could cause harm not only to those who consume the product but also to those who produce it. As well as those around them who may become sick from exposure through inhalation or touch.

For Manufacturers

Finally, manufacturers need testing because they can use this information when creating new products that will be sold commercially by others within their industry as well as outside of it. Whether you’re a business owner or just an individual who consumes cannabis. It’s important to know that your products are safe and pure. 

Testing ensures that your hemp or cannabis products are free of mold, pesticides, fungus, and other harmful substances that could potentially cause illness or injury if consumed by humans or animals. In addition to safety concerns for consumers. Testing also helps companies ensure that their products meet quality standards set by law enforcement agencies around the world.


Detecting contaminants in hemp and cannabis products is crucial for ensuring the safety and purity of these products for consumption. Contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents can have harmful effects on human health, and therefore, it is important to test for their presence in these products. Additionally, accurate labeling of the CBD and THC content of these products is also important to ensure their safety and efficacy.

BelCosta Labs’ testing services help ensure the safety and purity of hemp and cannabis products by providing accurate and reliable testing for contaminants, as well as cannabinoid potency. Our testing services comply with state and federal regulations. And their lab is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). By choosing products that have been tested by BelCosta Labs. Consumers can be confident that they are consuming safe and accurately labeled products.



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