CBD’s Big Pesticide Problem

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A product is only as safe as how it was produced.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is generally regarded as being safe and effective. With little known side effects, users of CBD products can experience the beneficial properties of the cannabis plant while avoiding the negative psychoactive properties of THC, which can be an unwanted side effect for some. Most experts agree that CBD can be taken safely, but with a major caveat— a CBD product is only as safe as how it was produced. 

CBD Industry on the Rise

The popularity of CBD products derived from hemp has created unprecedented demand, with the CBD market value soaring to $467 million in 2017, according to the research by Brightfield Group. With the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the CBD market is expected to pull in $16 billion in revenue by 2025. The fast-rising popularity of CBD has resulted in companies trying to quickly cash in while eschewing careful growing and manufacturing practices in an effort to get products to the market quickly and cheaply.

Compounding the issue of safety, the FDA has not imposed any clear guidelines on CBD, leaving the industry’s safety standards even more ambiguous. This has prompted growers and manufacturers of CBD to largely self-regulate with little to no federal oversight.

In an industry landscape that still looks very much like the Wild, Wild West in many ways, some of the more reputable companies have espoused good manufacturing and growing practices, even going as far to voluntarily post lab reports publicly. But the overwhelming majority of the industry has not been so transparent, leaving a big question mark in terms of consumer safety.

With the lack of regulation, consumers interested in CBD must be willing to do their due diligence in order to identify safely produced CBD products from reputable companies.

Hemp is a Bioaccumulator

field of outdoor hemp plants

Cannabis sativa L., or industrial hemp, the plant from which CBD is derived, is a known bioaccumulator. Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other chemicals within an organism. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism is taking in more of a long-lasting foreign substance than it can excrete, therefore resulting in a built-up concentration within the plant.

As a bioaccumulator, hemp is frequently used for phytoremediation, which is the direct use of living green plants for the removal, degradation, and containment of contaminants in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, and groundwater. In the 1990s hemp was planted near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown site to help absorb radiation and other toxins from the ground and was found to decontaminate the soil at a very high rate, absorbing high amounts of lead, cadmium, and nickel. 

Because of its tendency to absorb and store contaminants, hemp that is being grown for CBD products should be grown in a controlled environment, free of pesticides, heavy metals, or toxins. The soil should be tested to ensure that no contaminants bioaccumulate in the plant, and then into your body after consumption of CBD.

 Natural Pest Control for Safer CBD

As with any other crop, pests pose a vexing issue to hemp growers. Since farmers who grow CBD are not subject to laws concerning pest management, the use of pesticides on cannabis crops is a surprisingly common, yet alarming practice. In 2016, Steep Hill, an independent lab in California, reported that a pesticide calledCyclobutanil, which is considered a lethal chemical, was detected in over 65% of all cannabis samples tested, and over 84% of samples tested had one or more pesticide residues present— a far higher number than the lab had initially expected. CBD products with residual pesticides pose a significant risk to consumer health. Pesticide ingestion has detrimental effects on fertility, pregnancy, and can cause internal organ damage.

bottle of bioline natural pest control being held by someone