There are a variety of opinions concerning the water quality in bongs and how often it should be changed. The water affects several factors in the smoking experience, so here is a closer look.
Being a responsible cannabis consumer entails many things: proper storage, cleaning, and using the right strain for your needs, among many others. Without the proper care, your cannabis paraphernalia can actually make you sick – because of biofilm.
Dirty bong water can be a host for numerous kinds of yeast, bacteria, fungi and other kinds of microbes; all of which form biofilm. When microbes begin to excrete substances that enable them to latch onto surfaces such as plastic and cannabis plant residue like those found inside your bong, then the biofilm will begin to grow. Biofilm actually protects these microbes, which is why infections caused by them are more difficult to treat and makes them a serious health risk. Biofilm is also resistant to antibiotic treatment. This is because antibiotics aren’t strong enough to penetrate through the biofilm.
According to the Montana State University Center for Biofilm Research,
“Biofilms grow virtually everywhere, in almost any environment where there is a combination of moisture, nutrients, and a surface.”
Even if your bong is clean, any water left in it can encourage the formation of biofilm. You are at higher risk for consuming contaminated bong water due to biofilm once the cannabis resin and other plant materials accumulate inside the bong. Even mold can grow from the stagnant tap water in your bong as well as humidifiers.
Like almost any wet, dank environment, stagnant water in bongs and water pipes is prone to bacteria and fungus.
Fusarium, for example, is one common fungus that typically grows in damp locations, like bathrooms. This same pathogen is also known to destroy a cannabis plant or two. Fusarium is just one of many water-borne fungi that can potentially cause you to feel sick or get an infection if inhaled.
- Aspergillus is a kind of fungus that usually grow on cannabis plants. When aspergillus or other kinds of microbes break down through burning, it releases toxic compounds called mycotoxins. When you inhale these mycotoxins, you can get extremely sick. Symptoms of mycotoxin poisoning include coughs, chest pain, and other infections. Additionally, aspergillus spores are so strong that they can even survive burning. A 2011 study discussed 2 cases of medical cannabis patients who suffered from severe lung dysfunction caused by aspergillus after smoking.
- Streptococcus is a common kind of bacteria that is found almost everywhere, including animals and humans. Streptococcus is the bacteria responsible for causing scarlet ever, pneumonia, and strep throat. Streptococcus can only be found in water if the existing environment has already been contaminated, which is why it’s important to keep your bong clean. If you have pets, keep your bongs away from them because they can pass on the bacteria to your bong and cause disease.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa is another common type of bacteria that even healthy people have inside their bodies. The only time this kind of bacteria can be harmful to your health is if they grow excessively or in the wrong places, like in household appliances that contain water – including humidifiers and your bong. If you have a compromised immune system, you’re more at risk of developing infections from Pseudomonas aeruginosa such as confusion, shock, cough, pneumonia, chills, and fever.
- Escherichia coli, also known as E.coli, tends to thrive when you use contaminated water in your bong or if the water has been exposed to human or animal waste. E. coli contamination is more likely to occur if you have pets or if you don’t wash your hands after you use the john. E.coli is also commonly found in food products and the kitchen; hence the importance of always using sanitized bongs, washing your hands, and using clean water. E.coli can also be found in the cannabis plant itself even if it hasn’t been exposed to contaminated bong water, leading to respiratory infections.
- Flavobacterium is a form of bacteria found in household products that hold stagnant water. It’s also found in freshwater and soils, and can cause diseases even in fish. If humans are exposed to flavobacterium, it can cause respiratory infections and fever.
- Molds tend to develop around percolators and reclaims, which are the most difficult places to clean. While molds can vary in color and appearance, the most common include pink, green, black, gray, and white molds.
When inhaled mold spores can cause symptoms of
-Coughing, chest pain
-General malaise, feeling sick
-Red, itchy eyes, blurred vision
-Lung infection (bronchitis, pneumonia)
These kinds of bacteria can be found in both bongs and humidifiers, as well as any household object that contains stagnant water for too long. Of course, there are some variables to consider, such as your climate, the level of junk in the bong water, and the overall strength of your immune system. When your immune system is down, you’re more likely to be affected by that bong water that you haven’t changed in two weeks. So never, ever forget to clean your bong!