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published on

November 2023

Butane Hash Oil Labs: Understanding Risks and Implementing Safety Measures

In recent years, the cannabis industry has experienced significant growth and transformation, giving rise to various extraction methods to produce concentrated cannabis products. One of these methods is the extraction of butane hash oil (BHO), which involves using flammable solvents to extract concentrated cannabinoids from cannabis plant material. While BHO extraction offers many advantages, it also presents serious hazards that demand our attention. In this article, we will explore BHO labs, discover their associated risks, and highlight the crucial importance of implementing safety measures within the cannabis industry.

Understanding Butane Hash Oil Labs

What is Butane Hash Oil?

Butane hash oil, sometimes referred to as butane honey oil, is a concentrated cannabis extract produced when solvents like butane are used to isolate cannabinoids and other valuable compounds from the cannabis plant.

BHO extraction is a process that involves passing butane through the plant material, dissolving the cannabinoids and terpenes, and then evaporating the solvent to leave behind a concentrated extract. These highly potent extracts, which include BHO extract concentrates like shatter, wax, and oil, are the core reason for BHO attraction, the popularity of which lies in their potency and versatility for various consumption methods.

Why is Cannabis Extraction Important?

Cannabis extraction is a fundamental process that isolates cannabinoids, terpenes, and other valuable compounds within a cannabis product. This extraction process allows individuals to separate various compounds within a plant and use them to enhance the quality for consumers, a process whose basis lays the foundation for numerous cannabis products that cater to diverse consumer preferences.

Other Types of Extraction Methods and How They Compare to BHO

BHO extraction is just one of several methods used to obtain concentrated cannabis compounds. Other techniques include CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction, and even solvent-free extractions using agitation. However, BHO stands out due to its efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and ability to produce a wide range of consistencies containing a complete spectrum of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other compounds.

A greenhouse full of cannabis plants

Risks Associated with BHO Labs and the Use of Flammable Solvents

Despite its advantages, BHO extraction also carries significant risks due to the use of butane. Butane is highly flammable and poses significant dangers when used in extraction processes. Its low boiling point and vapor pressure mean that even a tiny spark or heat source can trigger a catastrophic butane hash oil explosion in a lab environment with inadequate ventilation and safety measures.

The reason for this is that inadequate ventilation can lead to the accumulation of butane vapors in confined spaces. Even when done correctly, BHO extraction creates an explosive atmosphere, and when proper safety protocols are not in place, such as static-resistant equipment and protective gear, risks for lab workers and facilities are compounded, making the process more dangerous.

Compliance, Regulations, and Industry Standards

The Challenge in Regulating BHO Production

Regulating BHO production is challenging due to its complicated legal status nationwide. Marijuana’s legality varies from state to state, meaning laboratories operating to extract cannabis compounds, even when legal, often face safety and health standards inconsistencies. This creates a hazardous environment for workers in these industries as they are interacting with dangerous products in unsafe conditions, and it poses a risk to first responders as a lack of consistent standards means a lack of familiarity with proper operational protocols for these labs.

Magnified image of hash oil

Hash Oil Explosions and Their Impact

The risk and regulatory challenges become even more complex when you consider illicit BHO production. Many butane honey oil explosions are linked to illegal operations in residential settings such as neighborhood homesapartments, or hotel rooms. These incidents endanger not only the producers but also innocent bystanders and the surrounding environment, illustrating the far-reaching impacts of such explosions on communities and underscoring the need for effective regulation and safety measures to combat them.

Industry Standards and Best Practices for Ensuring Safety

Although specific standards tailored to BHO production are limited, there are methods to ensure the safe operation of these facilities. A range of established standards and guidelines apply to BHO laboratories, providing a foundation for maintaining safety. Notable examples include:

  • National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA): This global nonprofit organization aims to minimize the loss caused by fire, electrical, and related hazards. Codes like NFPA 1 (Fire Code Handbook), NFPA 58 (Liquified Petroleum Gas Code), and NFPA 30 (Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code) are directly relevant to the hazards associated with BHO production. Their implementation helps address inherent safety concerns in these environments.
  • Class I, Division 1 or 2: Classifying areas as Class I, Division 1 or 2 depends on the presence of flammable liquids or gases and is a classification that helps determine the ventilation rates necessary to keep the area at or below the recommended flammability limit. Division 1 denotes regular hazard presence, while Division 2 signifies a more intermittent hazard presence. BHO labs often fall under the Class I, Division 1 classification, which subjects them to the same rigorous safety standards.
  • State Regulation: With federal legality varying for CBD and THC products, states that have legalized cannabis take the lead in determining regulations. Regulatory responsibility can rest with a state’s department of commercehealth, or dedicated cannabis regulatory bodies, so achieving best practice requires a collaborative relationship with the relevant state regulatory body.

In addition, BHO labs must adopt best practices and appropriate PPE the same way any other production facility would to ensure they uphold the highest safety standards. This includes using explosion-proof equipment, conducting meticulous risk assessments, routinely training personnel in emergency procedures, and working with experts such as our team here at BakerRisk to systematically identify and mitigate potential risks.

For Effective Risk-Management Solutions, You Need BakerRisk

As the cannabis industry expands, butane hash oil extraction has become popular due to its versatility in creating various cannabis products. However, using flammable solvents poses risks that cannot be ignored. Insufficient ventilation and a lack of regulatory standards put industry workers and surrounding communities in danger, and since the legality of marijuana varies across states, safety protocols remain unclear. This makes collaborating with experts like BakerRisk critical in ensuring adherence to relevant safety standards.

By conducting risk assessments, investigations, and site surveys, BakerRisk is helping to create a safer path forward for not only the cannabis industry but any industrial setting where hazards are an occupational risk. By identifying vulnerabilities in your existing systems, BakerRisk is promoting innovative risk-management processes. Don’t compromise on safety — partner with BakerRisk today to enhance your facility’s safety and resilience to the highest possible level.