Because of the potential risks to health, heavy metals in cannabis plants are an important cause for concern. Cannabis plants can absorb them from the soil, which may harm consumers if such plants are goes for direct consumption or processing.
Why are heavy metals a concern for cannabis plants?
The four most common heavy metals are lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. They are elements that can occur in soil naturally. However, the use of specific fertilisers or pesticides, mining, and industrial activity can result in soil contamination as well. Cannabis plants can absorb these heavy metals through their roots.
Because heavy metals may accumulate in a variety of plant parts, including the flowers, leaves, and stems, the presence of heavy metals in cannabis plants is problematic. There is a chance of heavy metal exposure or ingestion if these contaminated plant parts are utilised to manufacture cannabis products like oils, tinctures, or edibles.
Exposure to heavy metals can have a negative impact on human health. Because they are toxic, heavy metals can harm organs, interact with biological functions, and have long-term negative effects on health. For instance, lead exposure, particularly in young infants, can result in neurological abnormalities, cognitive deficits, and developmental problems. Exposure to arsenic has a linkage with a number of tumours, skin imperfections, and cardiovascular issues.
How does the market deal with heavy metals issue?
Regulators in many countries set limits for the level of heavy metals in cannabis products. These restrictions are meant to protect consumers from excessive exposure to heavy metals. To detect the quantities of heavy metals contained in cannabis samples, testing labs perform analyses. They may be assessed hazardous for eating or require remediation procedures if the levels exceed the recommended limits. Heavy metals testing is part of the contamination test. However, there are also quality and potency analyses of cannabis products. It is necessary to regularly test cannabis products for heavy metals to guarantee compliance with safety standards and protect consumer health. Customers need to be aware of how crucial it is to buy cannabis products from reliable vendors who follow safety and quality requirements.
Cultivators and producers in the cannabis industry have to adopt good agricultural and manufacturing practices to reduce heavy metal contamination. This involves selecting growing sites with care, keeping an eye on soil quality, and clean water sources. Furthermore, determining proper wastewater treatment and keeping away from the use of contaminated pesticides and fertilisers will help minimise heavy metal accumulation in cannabis plants.
Moreover, cannabis plants can act as a phyto accumulator or phyto stabiliser. Heavy metals from contaminated soils can be accumulated by them. Thus, they may function as a supportive crop.
Cannabis is available on the European market as a food supplement mostly. Thus, EU countries should follow available supplements or foodstuff regulations around heavy metals.