Cannabis Q&A: Understanding Vitamin E Acetate and the Vaping Product Crisis

As more and more states across America legalize cannabis, it is important to ensure that the public can be confident in the end product that they use. A2LA is engaged in ensuring quality and compliance in this industry, as evidenced by our ever-growing presence in industry groups, influence on state regulations, online and in-person education, strategic partnerships, and publishing free educational content. Anna Williams, an Accreditation Supervisor at A2LA, interviewed Timothy Schnupp, Laboratory Director for Pinnacle CT Labs in Westminster, Maryland, in order to understand how they are combating the vaping crisis by providing ISO/IEC 17025 accredited testing for vitamin E acetate.

Can you give a summary of the vaping crisis that came up in the past year?

  • By September 2019, reports of a newly identified lung disease associated with vaping made headlines across the nation. As of November 13th, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 2,172 lung injury cases and 42 deaths linked to e-cigarette or vape products. The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). A recent study on the use of THC-containing e-cigarettes and vaping products published in February 2020 in the New England Journal of Medicine found vitamin E acetate in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of 48 of 51 EVALI patient samples, but not in the BAL fluid from the healthy comparison group. No other toxicants were found in the BAL fluid from either group except for coconut oil and limonene (1 EVALI patient each). Since then, the CDC has recommended that people refrain from using THC-containing e-cigarettes or vaping products, especially from informal sources such as friends, family, or in-person or online dealers.

Has testing and research determined that Vitamin E acetate is found in the legal market, black market, or both?

  • Pinnacle CT Labs provides testing services for a wide array of customers including the Maryland medical cannabis market, national CBD brands, and law enforcement agencies. We have tested hundreds of medical cannabis vape products and have not detected any vitamin E acetate. Because of this, we believe that regulatory testing has helped combat the use of vitamin E acetate in legal products.

Why did your company decide to help tackle this crisis by expanding your scope of accreditation to cover Vitamin E acetate analysis?

  • Pinnacle CT Labs continually strives to deliver the highest quality results to all of our customers and instill trust in consumers. In order to achieve this level of quality and trust, we strongly feel that the methods we utilize to generate those results must be reviewed by a third-party Accreditation Body and undergo the same rigorous method validation procedure as our other scoped methods.

How does your test work and how do you analyze a sample to detect Vitamin E acetate?

  • Our vitamin E acetate method is based on a previously developed method for vitamin E acetate analysis in dietary supplements, published in Food Analytical Methods, 14 June 2012. To maximize efficiency, it was tailored to use the same column and sample extract used for cannabinoid analysis, albeit with different mobile phases, flow rates, wavelength, and column temperature.

What are the requirements in the state of Maryland when it comes to Vitamin E acetate testing?  Do they differ from other states?

  • To our knowledge, few states with medical cannabis programs require vitamin E testing. Maryland and Michigan are two states that require vitamin E acetate testing before vape products are released for sale at dispensaries. Maryland currently forbids the use of vitamin E acetate in vape products and allows no detectable amounts to be present in state-regulated medical cannabis products.

How has regulatory testing for vitamin E acetate helped combat the vaping crisis in the legal market in states such as Maryland?

  • Regulatory testing has helped by ensuring that vape products are tested by independent testing laboratories before the products are released for sale at dispensaries. Patients across the state can rest assured that the regulated medical cannabis vape products they consume have been independently tested and are free from vitamin E acetate. Ultimately, regulated independent testing preserves the integrity of the industry and ensures patients have access to clean medicine.