The Dangers of Butane Hash Oil Extraction

Mar 27, 2016 0 Comments in Cannabis Extraction by
The Dangers of Butane Hash Oil Extraction

Over the past few years, hash oil has experienced a substantial rise in popularity. In California and Colorado dispensaries, cannabis oil extracts and cannabinoid-containing edibles have accounted for steadily gaining portions of retail sales among both medical and recreational users.

Sometimes colloquially referred to as dabs, the waxy cannabis concentrates come in many forms and have alternative names such as budder, honey oil, crumble, shatter, honeycomb, and water hash. The most popular extraction solvent in recent years has been butane, an extremely flammable hydrocarbon, because of its widespread accessibility and low upfront cost [1].

Nevertheless, with the rapid increase in businesses and hobbyists producing hash oils, efforts to ensure the quality and safety of butane hash oils have come into question. Many hobbyists and operators have been injured by butane flash fires and explosions, and unknowing consumers have paid the price for the faults of negligent butane hash oil producers.

A major component of butane’s attractiveness resides in the simplicity of processing. The ubiquitous chemical is injected, or “blasted,” into a container, soaking the plant material of choice and dissolving its active ingredients. The solids and liquids are then separated by straining, and the butane is evaporated off of the hash oil. Unfortunately, many people are not qualified to perform the extraction in a safe manner and lack the right tools to establish a safe working environment. Butane is an odorless hydrocarbon that can only be detected by specialized instruments, so it is very easy to fill an entire room with explosive levels of the vapor without even knowing it [2]. Worse yet, many of the butane equipment manufacturers distribute equipment without the proper safeguards. Some butane systems utilize vacuum pumps designed for nonhazardous locations—the wrong pump can quickly ignite leaked butane. Many attempts to employ butane extraction have gone disastrously wrong, causing problems ranging from severe burns to major property damage [3].

Not only does it pose hazards to operators, but the flammable solvent also lacks the selectivity possessed by carbon dioxide because butane’s solvent power cannot be appreciably modified by small adjustments to temperature. Removing the butane following the extraction step requires heating that denatures valuable compounds in the target material. In contrast, carbon dioxide’s high vapor pressure at ambient temperatures allows it to be vaporized at low temperatures after extracting the cannabis concentrates [4].

Those who save money upfront by using butane end up paying the price down the road. Whether it’s property damage, equipment damage, OSHA fines, workers’ compensation payments, product recalls, or low efficiency, there’s simply no reason to take the risk of purchasing or building a butane extractor when there are much safer and more effective systems on the market.

  1. OSHA. Chemical Sampling Information: Butane. <https://www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/data/CH_222200.html>
  2. Todd Burton, Department of Environmental Health. Butane Hash Oil: Risk Assessment for First Responders. <http://www.fireengineering.com/content/dam/fe/online-articles/documents/2015/BHO-STUDY.pdf>
  3. Chris Vanderveen. “What a hash-oil explosion looks like from the inside.” <http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/investigations/2015/05/19/hash-oil-explosion/27581153/>
  4. Raikos V, Duthie G, Ranawana V. “Denaturation and Oxidative Stability of Hemp Seed (Cannabis sativa L.) Protein Isolate as Affected by Heat Treatment.” <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26142888>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 + twelve =