Crystal pipes – are they actually safe to smoke?
When crystal pipes images hit influencer accounts, everyone was clicking “add to cart” at the online headshop. Crystal pipes are ethereal, drawing in people with myriad interior decor styles.
These pipes provide the perfect visual for a layout or cannabis photoshoot and add a nice touch to a stoned night in with friends. The cute smoking accessory was built for the social media era, and it showed.
Soon after the first lovely pipe hit the market, they were everywhere. Today, a quick Etsy search yields over 3000 results. They’re clearly popular, but is it safe to smoke from them?
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With so much focus on cannabis product testing and regulations, there’s little space to question smoking devices and emissions. But perhaps it’s time to.
Let’s consider vape carts. There are regulations about what cartridges are made from but little testing past that. But no emissions testing regulations have been set. This would monitor how metals or ceramic dust may leech into oils after repeated heating and cooling. Without any testing, it’s impossible to know whether vape components should be a specific grade or material.
With so little inquiry into vape cartridges, one of the fastest growing product sectors, it’s no surprise there’s less for crystal pipes. To understand whether it’s safe to smoke from them, let’s break down what they’re made from.
What are crystal pipes?
Crystal pipes come in a variety of types. Find these pretty pipes in rose quartz, labradorite, amethyst, and other minerals. They’re manufactured to have pointed or rounded ends, unlike naturally occurring double-terminated crystals.
They are all outfitted with a mesh metal bowl to hold ground cannabis flowers. The fire hits the flower directly in that metal bowl. Smoking out of them heats the mesh, whatever mineral the pipe is made from, and anything else used to build it.
The type of crystal matters
There are many ways to make a crystal. As such, they are made from many different materials. Learning what base material of gems like agate and amethyst could help gauge how safe it is to smoke from pipes made with them.
Some pipes are made from silicate minerals, the largest class of minerals. These minerals are made of silica (SiO2) and make up about 90 percent of the Earth’s crust.
Here are some crystal shop mainstays that are silicate minerals:
- Schorl tourmaline
- Rubellite Tourmaline
- Fire agate
Silica isn’t the only crystal material worth worrying about. Many crystals are also made with asbestos. Serpentine, Tiger’s Eye, and Silkstone are a few. If inhaled, asbestos can cause life-threatening conditions like the rare cancer mesothelioma.
Sealant chemicals used on crystal pipes
Most crystal pipes come sealed with a stem drilled into them. But the inside of the stem is likely unsealed, leaving it porous. This surface easily stores loose dust and possibly chemical deposits too. Additionally, the process of drilling could have loosened up some dust.
A lapidary (a person who cuts, polishes, and engraves gems) has probably polished the silicate mineral gem. The preferred polishing process adds a slew of other possible chemicals into the mix. All of the gem-polishing sealants can lead to lung irritation and possible damage.
Educational materials from UC Berkeley state that gems are polished using:
- aluminum oxide (alumina)
- cerium oxide
- tin oxide
- chromium oxide
- ferric oxide (jeweler’s rouge)
- silicon dioxide (tripoli)
It’s not for sure that these materials would be inhaled during a smoke sesh. It all depends on things like the crystal pipe manufacturing methods and how someone lights their bowls. Even so, it’s probably a good rule of thumb to avoid regularly smoking out of stuff that is known to irritate the lungs.
Crystals are gorgeous on a shelf, on an altar, or woven into jewelry. Heady glass bongs and pipes can also be stunning item to display. But there’s no need to combine the two. Free shipping or not, for safety purposes, let’s keep the crystals and the smoking devices separate.