The 5 W’s of Environmental Testing in the Cannabis Industry

Posted on August 30, 2022

Environmental Lab in AlbertaCARO has been providing environmental testing services to Western Canada for over 3 decades and testing Cannabis and its derivatives since legalization in Canada in 2018.  These two areas of expertise are not mutually exclusive; environmental testing is a valuable tool for risk mitigation in the cannabis industry.  It can help producers and manufacturers detect potential sources of contamination before they wreak havoc on your final product.  We have witnessed firsthand the benefits of environmental monitoring in the cannabis industry, and have a few thoughts to share that may encourage you to consider testing your facility sooner rather than later.

Who Should Consider Environmental Testing?

Anyone who is running a production or processing facility should at a minimum consider how the environment could influence the quality of their product.   This includes licensed producers as well as facilities that are processing cannabis to create a consumable or topical product.

Why Should I Consider Environmental Testing?

Ensuring your manufacturing or processing facility is under control is all part of good production, or good manufacturing, processes.  Environmental testing may be explicitly required as a part of your facility accreditation, by your client, or by the governing body where you operate or plan to distribute.  Health Canada’s Good Production Practices Guide for Cannabis, for example, reference Canada’s Cannabis Regulations, and details areas of focus for environmental controls, such as storage, facility design, and water supply, and includes information on the value of surface swabbing and potable water testing.

Finally, it is important to consider monetary and convenience factors.  A little bit of proactive testing throughout the production stream can prevent you from learning about contamination once it’s too late, and you have invested considerable time and effort in producing a contaminated product.

What Should I Test For?

The most common types of environmental testing we see include:Environmental Lab in Alberta

  • Swab – Testing of work surfaces that may contact your product, or where product is frequently being handled/processed.
  • Water – Per the Health Canada guidance referenced above, any water that is used for irrigation, as an ingredient, or to create ice or steam that is used in processing, must be potable. Potability can be proven through analytical testing.  Furthermore, if your facility has a cooling tower, certain jurisdictions require that you test the contained water for Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease (learn more here).
  • Soil – Any soil or growing media that is used in cultivating Cannabis flower has the potential to introduce contaminants to your final product.
  • Air – Air testing can include air that is entering your facility (if your site is located near a source of potential contamination), or air that exists in a clean facility. Passive collection is commonly used to determine the presence of airborne microbial contamination, while active collection can be used to determine if contamination is entering your facility from nearby sources.

When Should I Test?

Seasonality, client regulations/requirements, and the frequency of any activities that could potentially contaminate your product should all be considered when determining testing intervals.  Swab testing, for example, should be performed at routine intervals that consider how often a specific processing space is used.  Swab and air testing are often considered a step in validating the cleanliness of a new space, or as an ongoing monitoring process as a part of good manufacturing practices (GMPs).  Soil testing may be more ad hoc and should be considered when a new growing media is introduced or following any jurisdictional requirements.

Where Should I Send my Environmental Samples?

Western Canada’s favourite cannabis testing laboratory: CARO Analytical Services… Obviously.

We operate environmental labs in Alberta and B.C., but if you don’t have a CARO facility nearby, your closest ISO17025 accredited laboratory is a good place to start.

If you would like to learn more about what CARO can do to help support your environmental monitoring plan in Canada, you can connect with us at any time by phone (1-888-311-8846), or by emailing [email protected].

We look forward to hearing from you!


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