What Are the Risks of Using Plastic or Aluminum Foil Pipes and Bowls?

Crumpled Soda Can Aluminum
Photo by: Fabrika Simf/Shutterstock

Stoners tend to be some of the most creative people. They are modern renaissance men and women, forging their smoking tools out of on-hand materials. Innovative, crafty, desperate: all terms used to describe the cannabis lovers that are willing to go the extra mile to smoke their weed.

Many unorthodox methods have gained popularity over the years. Have an apple on hand? Great, get to work on an apple pipe. What about a toilet paper steamroller? With a few extra steps, you’ll be packing your bowl of herb and toking away in no time. Anything that can be twisted or morphed or cut into has seemingly been turned into a pipe or bong; the marijuana community is full of smoking device manipulators.

But there is still a lot of circulating skepticism over using homemade pipes and bongs, especially when they’re made out of plastic or aluminum foil.

What are the risks of using certain materials for smoking devices?

Here’s the bottom line: it’s dangerous to burn plastic.

Table of Contents

Go Green

Burnt Plastic Water Bottles Lungs
Photo by: SeDmi/Shutterstock
From an environmental standpoint, burning plastics releases toxins into the air. According to WECF, the consequences of burning plastics starts at an individual level and rises to affect everything that comes into contact with the toxins, reaching into territories of water, air, and wildlife.


“Pollutants released from burning plastic waste in a burn barrel are transported through the air either short or long distances, and are then deposited onto land or into bodies of water,” the WECF flyer states. “A few of these pollutants, such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and furans persist for long periods of time in the environment and have a tendency to bio-accumulate.”

The trickle-down effects of burning plastic (even on small, individual levels) are environmentally irresponsible when considering how the waste can affect the stability of ecosystems.

Watch Yourself

Perhaps more relevant than the environmental impact of burning plastics is how fumes can affect humans. When you smoke out of a homemade water bottle bong, the heat will melt the plastic. And you, the smoker, will be directly inhaling those toxic fumes.

It’s just not healthy.

When consumed, the toxins in plastic can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments (think asthma, emphysema), cause long-term distress in the nervous, reproductive, and development systems, and can cause headaches and pain, according to the WECF.

“The most dangerous emissions can be caused by burning plastics containing organochlor-based substances like PVC,” the WECF flyer states. “When such plastics are burned, harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals, are emitted. Dioxins are the most toxic to the human organisms.”

When plastic toxins are consumed, they trickle down throughout the body and stay there. Risks increase when a woman is pregnant, when a placenta can absorb the chemicals. Pro-tip: try not to inhale burning plastic anytime soon.

The Myth

In terms of smoking weed, homemade pipes and bongs are put under fire for a different reason than plastic-burning.

Many people think that smoking weed out of aluminum foil is bad because of a link to Alzheimer’s. This theory began when an Alzheimer’s study looked into the brains of ailing patients. In a research journal released March 2017, doctors found extremely high amounts of aluminum in the brain plaque in people with Alzheimer’s.

This plaque buildup, according to Alzheimer’s News Today, is caused by an excessive amount of the amyloid beta protein within the brain; when these proteins clump together, they disrupt cellular communication. This disturbance in communication causes the breakdown of neural pathways, resulting in loss of cognitive functions, including memory, tact, and problem-solving.

When it comes to the link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s, one professional has an opinion:

“Perhaps you’re worried that the short-term memory loss, confusion and paranoia are due to the aluminium? It’s not likely,” the anonymous author of the Wesleyan Argus weekly column “Ask a Professor” states. “Aluminium is a fairly reactive metal and on exposure to the atmosphere it quickly forms a surface layer of aluminium oxide, which protects the underlying metal from further reaction. Any aluminium that winds up in the smoke would be in the form of this oxide. There is little data on aluminium oxide toxicity, but it appears to be about as toxic as other fine particulates.”

When this study became public with the headline “Alzheimer’s is linked to aluminum excess in the brain,” the cannabis community panicked. They quickly drew the connection between homemade smoking devices out of cans and this debilitating illness.

The Truth

Instead, the reason that aluminum foil is risky is because of, once again, plastic. When people make bongs and pipe out of aluminum, they typically reach for a discarded soda can. These aluminum cans are lined with plastic. The most harmful aspect is that the rim of the inside of the aluminum is made out of a plastic which is toxic to burn and has nothing to do with the aluminum foil.

Keep in mind: smoking pot is great, and there are hundred of non-plastic ways to get creative with your bong and pipes. When in doubt, go to a dispensary (listed on Leafbuyer.com) to get a safe smoking device, risk-free.