If you've never heard of bioremediation, you're not alone. This mouthful of a word is something rarely talked about outside of certain scientific and industry circles. However, it's definitely something you should know about if you intend to consume CBD or other hemp products.
Bioremediation, also called phytoremediation when specifically applied to plants, is a term that describes a very special ability of the hemp plant. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bioremediation as "the treatment of pollutants or waste (as in an oil spill, contaminated groundwater, or an industrial process) by the use of microorganisms (such as bacteria) that break down the undesirable substances."
It turns out that, among the numerous almost magical capabilities of the hemp plant, it happens to work as a very effective treatment for pulling toxins from the soil. It is particularly talented at pulling carcinogenic heavy metals from the earth, especially the heavy metal cadmium.
So effective is the hemp plant at decontaminating the soil that it has been used to clean up some very famous toxic wastelands.
Before there was Fukushima, the world's most famous nuclear meltdown occurred at Chernobyl in the Ukraine on April 26, 1986. About a decade later, a company called Phytotech peppered the desolate land surrounding the nuclear reactor with hemp, ultimately planting thousands of hemp plants in the soil contaminated with nuclear radiation in an effort to clean it up in the greenest possible way.
A similar success story can be found in the tale of Europe's largest steel mill located in Taranto in southern Italy. The mill is so large that it produces 40% of Italy's steel. Unfortunately, the mill also produces an equally large amount of dioxin, a highly toxic carcinogen that can cause a host of problems, from developmental issues to damage to the immune system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So bad was the problem that farmers were barred from farming livestock within a 20 kilometer radius of the mill, thousands of animals were put down due to toxic contamination and 47 people were indicted for their part in the environmental and human disaster including the owners of the mill, the managers, a governor and the mayor of the city.
The hemp plant once again came to the rescue! Farmers who had seen their livelihoods decimated by the steel plant began reclaiming their land by using the hemp plant to pull the toxic dioxin out of the soil. The farmers also found a whole new market and were able to sell the fibers of the hemp plant for use in paper and rope making, all while each successive crop left them with cleaner and cleaner soil.
While bioremediation is great for toxic soil, it's not so great for you if you plan on ingesting the products of that hemp plant! All those toxins the plant is busy sucking up out of the contaminated soil end up in the plant itself where they persist through the extraction and manufacturing process, finally turning up in the CBD and hemp products that you consume. High Times Magazine called this "one of the major issues in medical marijuana circles: the source material for the 'hemp-based,' 'CBD oils' that companies have been marketing."
Because of the unique bioremediation properties of the hemp plant, it is particularly important that your hemp and CBD products are certified USDA organic.
"As a general rule, I recommend seeking out certified organic CBD products to ensure the least amount of contamination with pesticides and other harmful agricultural contaminants," wrote Dr. Joseph Mercola, New York Times Bestselling Author and prolific internet commentator on matters of health. By choosing organic CBD products, you can reduce your exposure to heavy metals and pesticides that can tend to accumulate in the hemp plant due to it's bioremediation superpowers.
Remember what we learned about the heavy metal cadmium being absorbed from contaminated soil with particular vigor by the hemp plant? Well, it turns out that cadmium is also absorbed by our own bodies with particular vigor when ingested through the lungs. One Scandinavian study found that "The absorption of cadmium in the lungs is 10–50%, while the absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is only a few percent." That study was looking at cadmium in cigarette smoke but the same holds true for individuals looking to vape CBD.
In fact, the lungs in general are a more direct route to absorption for any toxins. For this reason, if you choose vaping as the method of delivery for your CBD, be especially certain to buy organic.