Testing Cannabis for Smoke-taint

February 14, 2021

Wildfires are nothing new to cultivators on the West Coast. The wildfires of 2020 however have broken records and have left major growing regions covered in ash leading up to the harvest season.

The wine industry has a long history of dealing with fire contamination. Contaminated grapes can undergo reactions with the smoke taint leaving the resulting wine product with an undesirable smoky flavor. Similarly, if fire-tainted cannabis enters the supply chain there is a good chance that flavors of downstream products will be degraded.

The issue doesn't stop with degradation of flavor. Smoke-taint can contain dangerous pesticides and metals that are routinely tested for by cannabis labs. Additionally, flower product can be contaminated with ash solids and crops subjected to fire-ash are also more susceptible to mold and yeast.

There are seven common fire ash byproducts that are tested for in wine testing labs.

  • Guaiacol
  • 4-Methylguaiacol
  • o-Cresol
  • m-Cresol
  • p-Cresol
  • Phenol
  • Syringol
  • 4-Methylsyringol

A basic test consists of testing for guaiacol and 4-methylguiacol. A full test looks at all seven byproducts. These smoke-taint products can exist on the plan in a free form and a bound form. For the free form, analysis can be performed using solvent extraction and quantification by GC-MS. Testing of the bound form requires submitting the sample to acid hydrolysis prior to analysis.

In addition, since fires are also burning houses and other structures cannabis flower should be analyzed for heavy metals and metalloids, particularly arsenic. If fire retardants were used in proximity of the crop water supplies should be testing to ensure they are not contaminating the crop.

Cannabis contaminated by fire ash it should be remediated to the fullest extent possible before entering the supply chain. A quality extractor with access to a full-service testing lab with fire ash methods will be able to remove the smoke contaminants and get your product back on the market.

Need help testing for smoke-taint or remediating contaminated flower and concentrates? Contact us today for a free consultation.

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