Vitamin E Acetate: Effective in Sunscreens, But Deadly through Vaping

Guest Author: Scott Krepich, Food and Environmental Application Scientist

While cannabis legalization continues to expand, so has the proliferation of various cannabis related products and delivery modes.  However, the regulatory landscape is still murky, and many, if not most, of cannabis and cannabis related products are distributed through the grey or black market.  This can be particularly dangerous to the US and Europe, where consumers are accustomed to rigorous safety standards for food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. This has resulted in some abandoning common sense when it comes to the myriad of diverse edibles, tinctures, topicals, vaginal suppositories, and vaping formulations that have flooded the cannabis consumer market.

Vaping formulations may be among the most dangerous, as our respiratory systems are more fragile than our digestive system, and social acceptance of vaping is vastly exceeding safety studies and testing.  This sentiment rang true on September 12th, 2019, when the CDC reported hundreds of incidents of acute respiratory distress syndrome, possibly associated with vaping.

Synthetic vitamin E oil (Tocopheryl acetate), a common component of lotions and sunscreens, is being formulated into many vaping oils as a more cost-effective thickener and is now included as a hazardous component for testing, along with other additives, pesticides, and toxins.

Along with the regulatory issues, another major challenge in cannabis testing are the diverse matrices that may contribute their own unique challenges in an effective analytical testing method.  That being said, examining the chemical and physical properties of both the analytes and sample matrices, and extrapolating from existing methodologies, considering the underlying chemistries, can be a fast and effective way to integrate new samples and analytes into an existing workflow.

In the case of tocopheryl acetate in vape oils, I might start with a normal phase LC-UV/Fluorescence method, like the AOAC OMA 2012.10 found in the below technical application “Vitamin A and E Analysis from Infant Formula”.

Testing method of Vitamin A and E analysis from infant formula which is similar to how to analyze vaping oils.

Or, since this is a hydrophobic, fat soluble vitamin, a high organic reversed phase LC-UV method may also be effective, and could likely be integrated into an existing potency methodology, in anticipation of it eluting in a similar chromatographic region. See a similar analysis in the following technical applications “Separation of Vitamin E Congeners by LC/UV” and “16 Cannabinoids for Potency Testing by Practical LC-UV”.

Separation of Vitamin E Congeners and how it relates to testing impurities in vaping oils

16 cannabinoids for potency testing

And lastly, especially if screening for trace amounts as a residue, it may be possible to include it to an existing multi-residue pesticide LC-MS/MS workflow, similar to how some have effectively integrated some terpene and cannabinoid testing into their pesticide screens. For an example see “Determination of Pesticide Residues in Cannabis by LC-MS/MS”.

determination of pesticide residues in cannabis

For more information or help with building your own method development of Vitamin E acetate, reach out to our Technical Experts via Live Chat 24/7 around the world at

If you found this article helpful or interesting, then you will also want to check out the following articles:

“Beekeeper Trains Bees to Produce Cannabis-Infused Honey”

“What’s Your Pet Truly Eating? Analyzing Vitamins in Pet Food”

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