One of the most appealing aspects of smoking apparatus of recent years has been the inclusion of water filtration systems. Primarily believed to be one of the healthiest ways to smoke herbs; the water filtration system has come under much fire in recent years and questions into its effectiveness have been raised a number of times. There has been a long ranging debate as to how many impurities the water filtration actually takes out of the smoke and whether the THC level is significantly affected by the process of filtration.
Some people out there will tell you that there is no safe way to smoke cannabis. You will hear many a wild tale from the hysterical housewife who fears for her children’s livelihood and dreads the thought of her son succumbing to the reefer madness. They will tell you that the bong will cause the user to inhale smoke deeper into their lungs causing permanent scarring of lung tissue. I can tell you now that this is completely unfounded and yet to be proven. Without getting into a whole debate on drug policies; of course all recreational drugs carry an element of danger and risk, however they are usually greatly exaggerated and sometimes just completely untrue. In this article, we aim to analyse the water filtration process (with particular emphasis on the bong) and outline some of the advantages / disadvantages and hopefully debunk a few myths along the way.
The main attraction of the bong is believed to be linked to its ease of use and its water filtration system. With joints and pipes you always run the risk of inhaling ash and tar. The theory is that not only will the water filtration system of a bong prevent you from inhaling the ash and tar, but will also remove potential carcinogens and toxins. These toxins that are prevalent in tobacco and cannabis smoke are believed to be linked to diseases such as cancer.
Every method of smoking has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages and each can be appropriate for a specific set of circumstances. However, the use of the water-filtered marijuana smoke has been largely uncharted territory for scientific research. Studies of the past have been largely dedicated to studying the effects of water filtration systems on tobacco smoke. While the main psychoactive components of both tobacco and marijuana are vastly different (nicotine and cannabinoids), tobacco and cannabis smoke share many of the same physical properties. While there is a requirement for further research into cannabis smoke, the current research of tobacco smoke can be applied to this particular topic. One thing is for certain, we definitely need more stoners in the laboratories to test these theories!
Studies of yesteryear (such as the study by the University of Athens in the late 1970s) found that marijuana smoke that had been filtered through water had water-soluble and insoluble properties in the smoke. Obviously, if you start burning plants, you should expect to release a hell of a lot of different chemicals. Combustion is after-all one of the most erratic chemical reactions known to man!
The results of this study revealed some rather alarming issues as well. When the filtration water was analysed closely, it was found to contain agents that cause catatonia and motor-immobility. The bottom line being, the filtration system of the water removed these harmful substances which can cause severe mental defects when taken in large doses. This makes water filtered smoke distinctly different to any other form of cannabis smoke i.e. that of smoke from a joint or pipe.
Many older studies into the use of tobacco in pipes have found that water filtration systems have been widely accepted as removing the vast majority of toxic substances from smoke. Research has uncovered that carcinogenic material has been significantly reduced when filtered through water (the water was later analysed and found to have trapped the majority of carcinogenic compounds normally found in tobacco smoke).
In fact, water filtration systems work so well that it even just takes a small wetted surface area of 48 square inches to remove potential carcinogens. Our lungs are filled with toxin fighting cells that are integral to our immune systems. These brave bastards are known as alveolar microphages. Tobacco and marijuana smoke is known to contain substances such as acrolein and acetaldehyde which are known to be particularly harmful to our alveolar macrophages. Cannabis smoke that has been water filtered on a surface area as small as 48 square inches has been proven to remove acrolein and acetaldehyde to give our lung cells a fighting chance. Ultimately, this means that water filtered cannabis smoke is less harmful to our immune system than more “traditional” smoking methods.
Does Water filtration reduce the level of THC?
This has been one of the longest standing debates many friends have had with each other crowded round a cloudy living room at 1am. It’s up there with the “which is better: The Sopranos or The Wire” debate.
Research into this issue is conflicting and vague at best. Many people seem to believe that the main drawback of a bong or water pipe is that the filtration system removes a good portion of the THC. Ultimately this means the user will need to smoke more to get high. This seems to be merely speculation and hearsay but may be founded in some element of truth.
The aforementioned study conducted in Athens found many psychoactive compounds to be filtered out of the original marijuana smoke; which did indeed include a small amount of THC. However, upon closer inspection the research found that the vast majority of THC filtered through the water pipe was unaltered.
However, a more recent study in 1999 by NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) yielded results much to the contrary of the Athens study. They found that a proportionally high amount of THC was lost through water filtration to cannabis smoke and actually removed more THC than that of harmful tars. On the other hand, the research did not rule out the possibility that water-pipes could have other benefits; like filtering out noxious gases, but it suggests that other methods, such as the use of high potency marijuana, vaporizers, or oral ingestion, are needed to avoid harmful toxins in marijuana smoke.
It is very hard to draw a conclusion on this topic while there is still so much ambiguity in the air surrounding the subject. While water filtration units in smoking devices may not be the most full proof method of smoke purification, it is not without its benefits.
What we know for sure is that the water filtration of a bong certainly does protect the user from inhaling ash, tar and several other physical impurities; it is very much still debatable whether the water reduces the THC levels of your hit.
What is known for certain is that this is an area of science that is as hazy as a stoner’s basement on a Friday night. More research is required into the actual levels of THC that are impacted by filtration and the exact level of impurities that are removed through the process.
While the bong may not be completely full proof and eliminate 100% of toxins every time, there is a very strong case to be made for selecting them over other smoking apparatus. When held up against the likes of say the pipe or the joint, there is no question as to what is the more superior choice in terms of your health. At very affordable prices, the bong is not only the wisest health choice but also the most economically efficient option of the lot.
To view our gargantuan selection of bongs with filtration units check out our web-store. Let us know your thoughts on the matter as well in the comments section below!
If you liked this article then check out our Guide to the Best Bongs 2018!