Arsenic & Lead, how much is too much?

BioPharm > News > Benefits of Synthetic > Arsenic & Lead, how much is too much?

This is the question health regulators are struggling with, and a key question anybody purchasing hemp derived products needs to ask themselves also. First, what is all the fuss about? Why does agricultural CBD contain arsenic and lead?

Hemp is a phytoremediant, it is planted to detoxify land prior to food crop planting because it leaches heavy metals, pesticides and toxins from the soil. This reduces toxins in the food chain. It was even used in some places like Chernobyl to assist in cleaning up after the nuclear disaster. Rolling Stone magazine called it an “environmental saviour,’  but the downside of this bioaccumulation is that the toxins are soaked up into the plant, and are then concentrated if CBD is extracted. As a result much of the CBD in the market contains heavy metals, such as Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and so on.

Analytical laboratory Ellipse Analytics conducted thousands of tests on over 250 of the top CBD branded products in USA, and lead researcher Dr. Sean Callan said that an alarming number contained “really high levels of pesticides, really high levels of heavy metals.” Seventy percent of products tested in the USA market were found “highly contaminated” with heavy metals like lead and arsenic, carcinogenic herbicides like glyphosate and a host of other contaminants including pesticides, BPA and toxic mold.

United States of America’s FDA said in a warning that they “want to be clear that a number of questions remain regarding CBD’s safety – including reports of products containing contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals – and there are real risks that need to be considered. We recognize the significant public interest in CBD and we must work together with stakeholders and industry to fill in the knowledge gaps about the science, safety and quality of many of these products”

The industry response have been scrambling to agree on ‘tolerable levels’ and encourage sellers to send samples for analysis and provide a certificate showing levels of some contaminants. However these guidelines are seldom adhered to, and levels of toxins may vary from batch to batch and when the products are given to people who are already sick you need to ask yourself whether any level should be tolerable.

The other option for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies is to investigate CBD production methods that don’t involve hemp extraction at all. In the same way that aspirin was initially discovered in willow bark, today it is manufactured chemically pure in pharmaceutical factories so it is readily available, consistent and clean and CBD will inevitably go the same way before doctors can be sure that what they are recommending to patients is a clean product.


Scientific papers on hemp as a phytoremediant:


Heavy metal tolerance and accumulation of Cd, Cr and Ni by Cannabis sativa L.

ABC7 reported on contamination.

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