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  • Writer's pictureAdele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP

Warning: CBD Products May Have Heavy Metal Contaminants

CBD-infused products have proliferated in recent years, used by consumers legally in all 50 states in a variety of forms – pills, tinctures, candies, beverages, and lotions – despite legally having up to 0.3 percent THC (the active ingredient in cannabis). CBD is used for pain relief, insomnia, relaxation and other conditions but it not yet approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption. During a 2019 hearing before the FDA concerning regulation of the substance, researchers from NC posited that of 24 products they tested, only one was correctly labeled and some had more than the legal amount of THC – placing users at risk for positive drug tests in the workplace.

Now a new study, appearing in the journal Science of the Total Environment, shows more risks associated with over-the-counter purchase of CBD in an unregulated environment. Researchers at University of Miami’s School of Medicine assessed 516 CBD products, 121 of which were intended for oral consumption, and the results were disturbing.

The study found that 42 percent of products tested positive for the presence of lead, 37 percent were positive for mercury, 28 percent were positive for arsenic, and 8 percent were positive for cadmium! Moreover, over 40 percent of the products they tested had lower percentages of CBD than were advertised on the product labels, including lower levels in 29 percent of edible products tested. The article notes that heavy metal contamination has also been identified in unregulated delta-8 THC vape pens.

The authors concluded: “There is substantial discrepancy between the product label claims for CBD potency and the amount measured in both edible and topical products, underscoring the need for tight regulations for CBD product label integrity to protect consumers.” They warned that lack of regulation could give both consumers and medical providers hesitation about the benefits and potential uses of CBD.

CBD products sold in legal cannabis dispensaries are generally subject to the same rigorous testing requirements as cannabis products, including screening for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, and mold. They also are more likely to be properly labeled as to THC content, as some products sold in dispensaries are a mix of THC/CBD ingredients. However, consumers should be aware that even at the maximum legal 0.3 percent THC content, heavy use could still trigger a positive marijuana drug test depending on what nanogram cutoff value is selected by the employer or agency performing screening.

For more information on cannabis law, drug testing and workplace safety, contact Adele Abrams at

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