Dab Temperature Study: Hot Dabs May Cause Cancer

Hot dabs: they don't just hurt and taste awful, they might give you cancer.

A recent study found that low-temp dabs — in addition to providing a more flavorful and pleasant cannabis experience — do not include the same potentially lethal chemicals as hot dabs.


First of all, most people can intuitively tell that hot dabs aren’t healthy because of how massively unpleasant and painful it is to take one — I’ve heard the phrase “chemical burns” used to describe the sensation in your throat and lungs after dabbing off a too-hot nail or banger.

But, while most informed dabbers have long since embraced the use of timers and other tools to ensure they’re dabbing at optimal temperatures for flavor and efficacy, there are undoubtedly still thousands across the country who insist “red means go” when it comes to dabbing. Dabbing at such a high temperature isn’t the equivalent of putting ketchup on a charred steak (where merely flavor is sacrificed), it’s more like pouring gasoline over the meat and chowing down.

A recent study conducted by Portland State University’s chemistry department — one of the first to explore the effects of “terpenoid degradation” in the context of cannabis concentrate consumption — found that dabs over 750 degrees can contribute to the formation of carcinogen-filled smoke, and that even hotter dabs present an even greater risk.

From The Oregonian:

The study, led by PSU chemistry professor Robert Strongin, showed that oils present in the extract release potentially cancer-causing chemicals when heated to temperatures above 750 degrees. When heated above 932 degrees, the oils released benzene, a known carcinogen.

“The higher temperatures go, the more risk that (users) will be inhaling things that could be harmful,” Strongin said.

Thankfully, it’s very easy to ensure your dab is well under 750 degrees.

Here’s how to make sure your dab occurs at a safe temperature:

If you’re using an e-nail, it’s as simple as setting your temperature in the safe zone — my personal “sweet spot” is usually 505, but it also depends on the brand and the material used in the heating element.

If you’re using a torch, you can dial in the target time for a quartz banger using a watch or digital timer. Heat up the surface of the banger evenly until the bottom of it just starts to glow orange, but do not let the entire thing get glowing hot. Wait for 60 seconds and then take a test dab. Chances are it will be a little too cold, unless the heating element is very thick. Now you can dial down the cooling time to 45 seconds, then 30, and maybe even 15 seconds for smaller ones — whatever gets you a full, flavorful dab without leaving burn marks on the glass is just about right.

And if you happen to have a “heat gun” laying around, feel free to use that for extra precision, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Even the study mentions the availability of technology and techniques — e-nails and low temp timers — but insists most people are still taking hot dabs.

From the study:

Use of an electrically controlled nail (“e-nail”) allows temperature control; but, more commonly, users heat the nail (made of titanium, ceramic, or quartz) with a crème brulee torch and have no temperature control. A minority of dabbers use lower temperatures to preserve flavor, whereas a majority use higher temperatures to assure complete vaporization with no wasted material. E-nail users posting online cite a preferred temperature around 710 degrees. 

Bottom line? You should embrace low temp dabs and the philosophy of “waste it to taste it,” a philosophy which will subsequently protect you from exposure to toxic fumes. It’s not just good taste — it’s science.

TELL US, do you take hot dabs? Will this study make you stop?

Greg Zeman is the Associate Editor of Cannabis Now Magazine. His previous editorial credits include Staff Writer at a national political news site (Politix), Editor-In-Chief of a bilingual San Francisco newspaper (El Tecolote) and Founding Editor of an investigative journalism non-profit (Bay News Movement). His writing has been featured in SF Weekly, SF Evergreen, 3200 Stories, Offbeat and elsewhere. He wakes up at 4:19 but doesn't leave the house until eleven past seven.

7 Comments

  1. Titanium Brotherhood

    November 1, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Take this knowledge with a consideration to the facts.Inhaling any super heated hot vapor could damage the respiratory system.Thanks for the information and comments.All knowledge is useful to those whom have wisdom.

  2. Abby Dabs

    October 27, 2017 at 3:07 am

    My email is always set to 710. Perfect dabbing temp, no run sensation, great favour. etc

  3. J C

    October 24, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Yes I’m going way too Hot I guess. I’ve developed a ruff smokers cough and I’m thinking this may be the reason so I will try low temperatures for a month to see. Thanks great article.

  4. JasonIsn'tHavingIt

    October 24, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I find this article completely lacking in one basic understanding.
    Marijuana smoke in itself technically contains higher levels of certain carcinogens than tobacco smoke, but marijuana itself does something that seemingly protects us from which in a way tobacco smoke does not. the scientific correlations as to why are currently unclear, and not understood. To state that a high-temp dab could possibly cause cancer is a reckless interpretation of the fact that of course once we hit truly burning temperatures, and are further and further away from a more vaporized-like dab, that it would contain more of the chemicals that science has labeled as carcinogens… much like all forms of smoke… (good thing it’s still from cannabis)
    So quit using health-scare tactics, around things like dab-life. the study also is in reference to solely BHO and as cannabisnow should know, that is not the only form of concentrate being dabbed….

    • bruh

      October 26, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      i think this comment just gave me cancer

      • LameAss

        October 28, 2017 at 9:06 am

        Lmao stop trying to sound smart

      • CancerFreeHomie

        October 28, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        “To state that a high-temp dab could possibly cause cancer is a reckless interpretation”

        To sate that cannabis “protects” you from the carcinogens that are being delivered when you smoke it is also a reckless assumption to make, since we don’t have any science telling us exactly which good compounds are protecting us from the bad compounds. You have to make an assumption to get to the point where you say this article makes an assumption.

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