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The first study on cannabis contamination on shared pipes found that cannabis pipes are dirtier than public toilet seats. The study found that the cannabis community, in general, is ignoring standard hygiene practices when sharing pipes.
As the fear of contracting COVID-19 rises, cannabis users are looking to elevate their safety precautions wherever they can. From using every last drop of your isopropyl alcohol solution to using a pipe mouthpiece when sharing your gear with others, we are now living in a post-coronavirus society where bacteria contamination is at the top of our minds.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve decided to comb through a revealing study showing just how dirty the average cannabis pipe is compared to other everyday items such as public toilet seats, ATM keypads, and other dirty surfaces.
Moose Labs: Bacterial Contamination of Cannabis Pipes Study
A May 2019 study performed by Moose Labs, a Los Angeles-based smoking accessories manufacturer, revealed shocking figures showing that the average cannabis pipe had significantly more bacteria than an average dog food bowl, cell phone screen, ATM keypad, dumpster, shopping cart handle, and public toilet seat.
Moose Lab’s hypothesis was that an inordinate amount of harmful bacteria is passed between marijuana users who share pipes, vapes, and joints at home and at marijuana consumption events. Moose Labs used an ATP Monitoring System to test the bacteria levels of various marijuana pipes and neutral objects.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleotide present in organic material and is a good indicator of the presence of biological matter such as bacteria. Moose Labs used a Hygiena brand luminometer and ATP swabs that caused a bioluminescent chemical reaction to make the bacteria readable by the device. The device converts light generated into numeric relative light units (RLU).
The study was conducted at a booth space at two cannabis consumption events in California in October and November of 2018. The first round involved 50 participants who smoked out of Moose Labs’ silicone “MouthPeace.” Bacterial contamination testing was performed at regular intervals. Round two participants were not allowed to use the mouthpiece.
Additional tests were performed on other pipes at other booths and pipes that were considered “personal use” or “clean from home.” Moose Labs also performed neutral tests on everyday items for comparison. Prior to each round, the pipe was cleaned with a 70 percent alcohol wipe and allowed to dry for 60 seconds. The mouthpiece was then heated with a butane blow torch for 20 seconds and allowed to cool.
Cannabis Pipes, Vaporizers, and Joints Are Dirty
It wasn’t a surprise to find that people who used the MouthPeace when consuming marijuana had a much lower risk of coming in contact with bacteria compared to people who didn’t use the MouthPeace. Tests showed that at its highest level, MouthPeace usage resulted in a reading of 678 RLU. The highest reading for non-MouthPeace usage was 8254 RLU.
For comparison, testing was performed on everyday items:
- Gas station and fast food restaurant toilet seats – average 2350 RLU
- Dog food bowls – average 248.5 RLU
- ATM keypad buttons – average 1819 RLU
- Bus stop bench – 2920 RLU
- Weight room dumbbell – 910 RLU
- Shopping carts – average 2164 RLU
- Cell phone – 555 RLU
At public consumption events, people usually wipe the mouthpiece with an alcohol swab or wipe. Tests found that a quick wipe with alcohol reduces bacteria, but not by much. During the test, only 5% of participants used an alcohol wipe. Many vendors stated that less than half of people wiped the mouthpiece and about 10% of vendors didn’t even provide wipes.
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Even those who do wipe their mouthpiece with alcohol do not do so thoroughly enough or don’t wait the recommended 10 to 60 seconds to allow the bacteria to be killed. Some studies also suggest that alcohol use alone is not enough to avoid the spread of microorganisms.
After 5 hits, a vaporizer produced a 7883 RLU reading, 235 percent higher than the average public toilet seat tested. A marijuana joint filter tested at 8569 RLU after being smoked by a single person. Sharing the joint would significantly increase the number of bacteria found.
Moose Labs also tested smoking devices in a home consumption setting. They found that a 10-minute smoke session between four friends can increase bacterial contamination by a factor of 600 very rapidly.
These findings clearly show that cannabis consumers should step up their decontamination practices if they want to avoid spreading germs. The traditional cannabis smoke session may take a new form after everyone is allowed to leave their homes and hang out with friends. You’ll likely be seeing pipe mouthpieces and alcohol wipes on hand at every smoke session.
How Cannabis Hygiene Works
For comparison, let's look at food and hospital industries that regularly monitor cleaning processes. Food and hospital organizations use an upper limit of 25 RLU to indicate a “failed” test. While this cut off point is rigorous, the average cannabis pipe has about 3497 RLU, 13,888 percent higher than the upper limit.
Sharing can greatly increase your chance of becoming contaminated or spreading the contaminant. Viruses can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours. Consider that during Moose Labs tests, 19 participants coughed directly on the pipe and 128 participants made hand contact with the mouthpiece while consuming.
During this pandemic, humanity as a whole is rushing to develop immunity. We are playing a catch-up game with the virus that is spreading easily through sneezes, coughs, and other forms of contamination. Avoiding the spread of bacteria isn't just important for your health but also for the health of others and our economic future.
The Benefits of Using a Pipe Mouthpiece
Sharing pipes and other smoking materials can significantly increase your chances of contracting a cold, flu, or other more invasive viruses like herpes, Hepatitis B or C, or tuberculosis. The benefits of using a pipe mouthpiece for your devices are clear. While sharing is caring, protecting yourself from bacteria helps you share without spreading bacteria.
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The benefits of using a mouthpiece cannot be emphasized enough. The study found that when using a mouthpiece, you can reduce contamination by up to 50 times, a drastic difference that can keep you and your friends healthy and ready to smoke another day. Cannabis mouthpieces should be widely available in lounges and consumption events to maintain public safety.
Protect Yourself From Marijuana Contamination
Even when the coronavirus pandemic has reached manageable levels, it’ll be important to stay on top of avoiding bacteria and viruses. There are many ways marijuana users can protect themselves around coronavirus and high-risk environments. Check out our coronavirus guide for tips and tricks on how to reduce the spread of germs, sanitize your bong, and shop at pot shops during the pandemic.
Bacteria and viruses are all around us. We co-exist with bacteria in a state of symbiosis but reducing the spread of foreign germs can go a long way in stopping the spread of sickness among the cannabis community, especially medicinal users. Proper hygiene practices and the use of germ-prevention smoking devices can reduce the overall spread of germs.