Health & Wellness

Pesticides and CBD—What You Need to Know

By Mary Sauer
Jay Stonne/Unsplash

Cannabidiol oil is a cannabis product with so much potential. It provides a chance to capture some of the medicinal properties of cannabis while avoiding the psychoactive properties of THC. Generally, because CBD has so few side effects when taken correctly, it is considered to be safe.

And it is, just so long as it is produced safely.

Unfortunately, we are learning that safe growing of hemp and production of CBD isn’t as common as we would hope. Instead, it appears that the explosion of the CBD market has played a role in less-than-careful growth practices. The popularity of these products has created high demand, with licensed hemp growth growing by 140% between the years 2016 and 2017. The Brightfield Group, a research group providing insights on the cannabis industry, reported that the cannabidiol market had soared to $467 million in 2017, saying the hemp-derived CBD was responsible $291 million of sales.

For consumers, it is important to understand that this amazing growth has meant that regulation and oversight is still in development. While many producers of CBD oil are opting to have their products tested by a third-party, many are not. This means consumers must be prepared to do their due-diligence, ensuring that any cannabidiol products they use have been thoroughly tested.

Pesticides and CBD

Because it isn’t a well regulated industry, many farmers growing the hemp for cannabidiol are not subject to laws concerning the management of pests. Rachna Patel, MD, who specializes in the use of cannabis-derived products for chronic disease, tells us that the presence of pesticides in CBD oil is surprisingly common.

“There are two in particular you want to make sure that the product is tested for…bifenazate and myclobutanil, which is otherwise known as Eagle 20,” she says. “Those two pesticides are typically the most commonly used on cannabis plants.”

One big concern with this lack of regulation is the confusion it creates about what should and shouldn’t be used to protect hemp crops from pests. For example, the Purdue Newsroom reports that there are specific pesticides approved for use on hemp in higher concentrations because that hemp will be used as a fiber in textiles. However, those same pesticides could be dangerous when used on hemp that will be used in CBD products. Additionally, they point out that hemp crops used for cannabidiol products are being turned into a concentrate, potentially concentrating the pesticides used as well.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just speculation, history has shown that pesticides are present in cannabis and cannabis-derived products in an alarming quantity. In 2016, Steep Hill Labs reported that 84.3 percent of cannabis samples tested in their labs contained pesticides. Sixty-five percent of those samples contained myclobutanil specifically.

It isn’t difficult to find the risks of over-exposure to pesticides. Eagle 20, or myclobutanil, is reported by PubChem to be damaging if it is swallowed and to have potentially detrimental effects on fertility and pregnancies. It has also been found to do harm to internal organs when a person is exposed to the substance again and again.

The warnings associated with bifenazate are similar — don’t swallow it, avoid being exposed to it repeatedly to avoid organ damage, it’s bad for aquatic life.

Be Careful Buying CBD Oil

How can consumers ensure that the cannabidiol products they are purchasing is safe?

The simplest way, according to Patel, is to look for third-party laboratory documents that clearly outline what testing has been done and transparently shares the results. This means, it is best to buy products that are not being tested in house but actually by a party who does not benefit from their sale. The good news is that, In the spirit of transparency, many brands have begun releasing their lab tests publicly, which gives consumers the opportunity to do their own research before making a purchase. Typically, these documents can be found on a brand’s website.

Lab tests provide a lot of important information about the CBD product you’re considering buying, including the strength of the cannabidiol present, the THC content of the product, if there are heavy metals or bacteria present, and if the product contains pesticides and at what level.

About the Remedy Review Seal

In the hope of helping consumers more carefully select CBD products, we are doing some of the leg-work for you.

We created Remedy Review Seal, the only third-party testing of CBD products offered by a review site, with the hope of keeping consumers informed about the safest and most effective products in a market that is growing rapidly. Our testing protocol confirms that the product’s labels are accurate, checks for pesticide levels that are higher than deemed safe, along with the presence dangerous bacteria and heavy metals. As we receive products to review, they are tested and added to a sortable table we created which includes oils, tinctures, edibles, and more.

Of course, we can’t test every single product, but our hope is that our random spot checks will create a representative picture of the safety of the brands we are able to review.

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