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The Risk of Residual Solvents in Cannabis Products – California Compliance Testing

The Risk of Residual Solvents in Cannabis Products - California Compliance Testing

California specifically requires cannabis products to be subjected to rigorous residual solvent tests before it reaches the final consumer. The testing is expected to be performed for cannabis extracts such as waxes, shatters, oils, and concentrates, among others.

This is because various chemical solvents go into different types of extractions to produce concentrated cannabis products, and most of them can cause harm to the body when inhaled. Repeated exposure to these residual solvents can lead to nausea, allergic reactions, headaches, and even life-threatening illnesses. 

For instance, Butane can damage the liver, cause kidney failure, break down the nervous system, and lead to respiratory failure. Acetone, on the other hand, could cause vomiting, dizziness, irritation of the nasal and throat passages vomiting, eye damage, confusion, or even lead to unconsciousness. 

Some residual solvents that are connected with cannabinoid extraction are Ethanol, Hexane, Propane, Heptane, and Isopropanol.

They are typically deployed while extracting cannabinoids from the physical plant material, and are of three major categories:

First, Class 1. These solvents are environmental hazards, known carcinogens, and suspected carcinogens and should therefore be completely avoided. They should never be active in a cannabis product as they could result in serious health conditions. Butane and Propane are examples of Class 1 solvents.

Second, Class 2. These solvents are to be limited. They are potential causative agents or other destructive toxicity such as neurotoxicity. These substances may only be present in low volume in finished hemp and cannabis products as they cause cancerous effects in animals or maybe reversible neurotoxins. Ethanol is a popular example.

Third, Class 3. These solvents contain a low level of toxicity that has not shown to be detrimental to both humans and animals. The only solvent used for cannabinoid extraction and cannabis materials. CO2 and water are examples of class 3 solvents, and while they can be actively present in finished products, they do not cause harm or contamination risks.

What are Residual Solvents?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), residual or leftover solvents are chemicals that remain after the Cannabis sativa extraction process and are used in preparing supplements and pharmaceutical products. 

They are usually needed to liberate oils such as terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant materials used in their production. But while some of these are known to cause hazards such as lung damage, neurological damage, and cancer in users, others are essentially harmless. 

In essence, a manufacturer should endeavor to deliver products that are void of residual solvents.

The Major Risks of Residual Solvents in Cannabis Products

To understand how highly placed manufacturers and consumers should place residual solvent testing, it is necessary to consider the risks associated with inhaling or consuming them. So, when products are not regulated or tested, some risks cannabis solvents pose to you include:


There is quite an intense debate around the butane risks since the long-term effects have not been fully established. However, some evidence has shown that butane can result in organ failure and high exposure could cause cardiac issues.


Benzene causes damage to the consumer’s immune system, affects the bone marrow, and negatively impacts neurological function. Some of its side effects include high-level drowsiness, dizziness, and leukemia or anemia when exposed to large amounts.


Ethanol ingested in little amounts will not likely cause long-term issues even for a consumer. However, a study showed that ethanol has some potentially harmful effects when inhaled, and they include tolerance, dependence, or cravings.


Hexane is a Class 2 solvent with comparable side effects. When hexane is inhaled, it can result in severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, and can also inhibit the central nervous system’s functions.


Also a Class 2 solvent. It can depress certain working parts of the central nervous system when vaporized. If a consumer gets highly exposed to xylene, they can suffer symptoms such as nausea, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, and a host of others.

Improving Residual Solvents Testing

To place yourself in the industry as a reputable manufacturer or supplier, you must perform rigorous cannabis lab testing in licensed third-party testing laboratories like BelCosta Labs

Beyond your reputation, this is also necessary for compliance and quality assurance or R&D purposes. Carry out internal quality assurance tests to uncover small batches of your oil products or extracted concentrate for residual solvents to know if there’ll be a need to change or enhance your systems and processes.



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