03-23 | CDAH Team
In recent years, marijuana has been decriminalized in several states in the United States due to its medical use, which has been welcomed by many as a sign of progress. However, it entails some noticeable shortcomings that may prove to be a public health concern in future. For instance, a greater number of children may be exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke and traces of marijuana in edibles, thereby increasing their risk to witnessing adverse consequences.
As there has been limited research on marijuana smoke compared to tobacco smoke, there is less awareness among the users about the repercussions. However, one of the studies has revealed that marijuana smoke contains cancer-triggering chemicals akin to tobacco smoke. In fact, these carcinogens were found in both the mainstream and side smoke of marijuana.
More than qualitative differences in the chemicals, quantitative differences define the nature of dissimilarity between tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke. Some of the chemicals, such as hydrogen cyanide, a few aromatic amines and ammonia, are known to be higher in marijuana smoke compared to tobacco smoke. In addition, children who are exposed to significant amounts of secondhand marijuana smoke have been reported to have been hospitalized for respiratory diseases, cancer, pulmonary diseases, etc.
The effects of exposure to marijuana include bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, anxiety and impaired motor function among children, which are similar to those witnessed among adults. The inhalation of marijuana smoke also causes lung irritation and asthma attacks.
According to a 2016 study published in the Springer Nature’s journal Pediatric Research, when children inhale harmful marijuana smoke they also take in psychoactive chemicals along with it. The study also showed that the traces of the primary psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were found in the urine of children exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke.
The psychoactive chemicals found in marijuana comprises mainly of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). The study entailed an innovative analytic method developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to measure the biomarkers of marijuana attributed to the exposure to secondhand smoke.
The study assessed a total of 43 babies between the age of 1 month to 2 years who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis between 2013 and 2015. The parents of these children also completed a survey on their marijuana smoking habits along with the analysis of their urine samples to check for the traces of marijuana metabolites (COOCH-THC) and cotinine, which is a biomarker for tobacco smoking.
The traces of COOH-THC were found in 16 percent of the samples, with the concentration level of COOH-THC in urine were between 0.04 and 1.5 nanograms per milliliter. It was interesting to note that higher concentrations of COOH-THC were found in the urine of nonwhite babies compared to white babies.
Furthermore, among 56 percent of children with the traces of COOH-THC, the level of cotinine was found to be greater than 2.0 nanograms per milliliter of urine. This suggests that children who are exposed to marijuana smoke also have an increased risk of exposure to tobacco smoke, thereby increasing their likelihood of developing impairment of cognitive functions and the symptoms of respiratory conditions.
However, the researchers of the study proposed that more investigation and high-sensitivity evaluation is required to discern how exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke manifests as a health risk. In addition, the study endorses the need for appropriate informational materials to be distributed among parents and caregivers whose children are exposed to their marijuana and tobacco smoking habits.
Despite the legalization of marijuana in some of the states, there is a need to make more efforts to spread adequate awareness among people indulging in marijuana and tobacco smoking in their household or other public spaces. By exposing not so fully developed brains of children to the dangerous chemicals of marijuana smoke, the society might see the rise of a weak or ill generation.
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