Beware: Children can passively 'smoke' marijuana, too

December 7, 2016, Springer

Relaxing with a joint around children is not very wise. Not only do youngsters inhale harmful secondary smoke in the process, but the psychoactive chemicals in the drug are taken up by their bodies as well. This warning comes from Karen Wilson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence in the US. She led the first study showing that it is possible to pick up traces of THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in the urine of children exposed to secondary marijuana smoke. The findings are published in Springer Nature's journal Pediatric Research.

The two primary active components in marijuana are the psychoactive chemical Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). Previous analytical methods were mostly developed to measure biomarkers of marijuana in users themselves. In this study, a new and more sensitive analytic method was developed and used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to quantify the trace biomarkers resulting from secondhand exposure.

The method was used to analyze the urine samples of 43 babies between the ages of one month and two years who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis in Colorado in the US between 2013 and 2015. Their parents also completed a survey about their marijuana smoking habits. The were analyzed for traces of marijuana metabolites (measured as levels of COOH-THC) and also for cotinine, a biomarker that indicates exposure to tobacco smoke.

COOH-THC was detectable in 16 percent of the samples, at concentrations between 0.04 and 1.5 nanograms per milliliter of urine. Higher concentrations were found in the urine of non-white compared with white children.

"While documenting the presence of metabolites of THC in children does not imply causation of disease, it does suggest that, like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is inhaled by children in the presence of adults who are using it," says Wilson.

In 56 percent of children with detectable COOH-THC levels, more than 2.0 nanograms of cotinine per milliliter of were also measured. This indicates that children exposed to marijuana smoke are also more likely to be exposed to , which increases their risk for cognitive deficits and respiratory ailments.

According to Wilson, more research is needed to investigate if secondhand marijuana is also a health risk. She believes that further high-sensitivity testing will give researchers the opportunity to do so more effectively, and that funds and human resources should be prioritized for such investigations.

"This research will help inform appropriate educational materials and outreach to parents and caregivers who use both marijuana and tobacco in the presence of their children," she says.

Wilson also supports the inclusion of a parent report screening question for institutions in areas where marijuana is legal, so that those who report household marijuana smoking can be counseled on how to reduce potentially harmful of their children.

Explore further: One in six children hospitalized for lung inflammation positive for marijuana exposure

More information: Karen M. Wilson et al, Detecting biomarkers of secondhand marijuana smoke in young children, Pediatric Research (2016). DOI: 10.1038/pr.2016.261

Related Stories

One in six children hospitalized for lung inflammation positive for marijuana exposure

April 30, 2016
A new study to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting found that one in six infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with coughing, wheezing and other symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive ...

A minute of secondhand marijuana smoke may damage blood vessels

July 27, 2016
Rats' blood vessels took at least three times longer to recover function after only a minute of breathing secondhand marijuana smoke, compared to recovery after a minute of breathing secondhand tobacco smoke, according to ...

Secondhand marijuana smoke may damage blood vessels as much as tobacco smoke

November 16, 2014
Breathing secondhand marijuana smoke could damage your heart and blood vessels as much as secondhand cigarette smoke, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

Occasional marijuana use doesn't harm lungs, study finds

January 12, 2012
Smoking marijuana on an occasional basis does not appear to significantly damage the lungs, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Parenting and personality work together to affect baby's weight gain

March 20, 2018
Offering a snack may be a sure way to soothe a fussy child, but researchers say making it a habit can result in unnecessary weight gain in babies with certain temperaments.

Babies fed soy-based formula have changes in reproductive system tissues

March 12, 2018
Infants who consumed soy-based formula as newborns had differences in some reproductive-system cells and tissues, compared to those who used cow-milk formula or were breastfed, according to a new study. The researchers say ...

Are newborns ugly? Research says newborns rated 'less cute' than older babies

March 9, 2018
Parents who aren't feeling that magical bond with their newborn babies need not panic.

Babies who look like their father at birth are healthier one year later: study

March 5, 2018
Infants who resemble their father at birth are more likely to spend time together with their father, in turn, be healthier when they reach their first birthday, according to new research co-conducted by faculty at Binghamton ...

App connects mothers with lactation experts, improve breastfeeding rates

February 27, 2018
A newly developed proactive app could instantly connect breastfeeding mothers with pediatricians or lactation consultants to help collect data, monitor patients and provide consultation and support while improving breastfeeding ...

Study finds only half of infants with deadly meningitis show traditional signs of the disease

February 26, 2018
Researchers at St George's, University of London, say their new study shows the classic symptoms associated with bacterial meningitis are uncommon in young infants less than three months of age – the group at highest risk ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.