Three Key Points:

  • The results of these studies indicate that dabbing, consistent with vaping, delivers significant amounts of toxic degradation products (i.e. methacrolein, benzene, 1-3 butadiene).  
  • Benzene concentrations (the largest single known cancer-risk air toxic) found in heated dabbing terpenes are greater than those found in ambient air.  Methacrolein is structurally similar to acrolein another powerful pulmonary irritant.1-3 butadiene is a known carcinogen and mutagen found in the Prop 65 carcinogen list in California.
  • Terpenes are naturally found in cannabis products and are added to some dabbing products.  Normally terpenoid degradation by heat is of little concern in standard cannabis products but is problematic when vaporization using high temperatures occurs.  Long term impact of these terpenoid degradation substances can have major effects in humans.

Toxicant Formation in Dabbing: The Terpene Story

September 2022

Given the widespread legalization of cannabis in the United
States, it is imperative to study the full toxicology of its
consumption to guide future policy. The results of these studies
clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of
vaporization, may in fact deliver significant amounts of toxic
degradation products. The difficulty users find in controlling
the nail temperature put users at risk of exposing themselves to
not only methacrolein but also benzene. Additionally, the heavy
focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis
industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of
these compounds when heated. This research also has
significant implications for flavored e-cigarette products due
to the extensive use of terpenes as flavorings. Future research
will also be directed toward assessing the contribution of
terpenoids to the existing toxicant formation in e-cigarettes.
Additionally, the methods discussed herein will also be used to
further study the degradation of cannabis extracts used in
dabbing and cannabis e-cigarettes.