A new study found that children who are exposed to marijuana smoke are more likely to absorb THC which, the doctors conducting the study say, can lead to an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The doctors expect the negative effects of secondhand marijuana smoke on children are similar to those of secondhand tobacco smoke, though there is no concrete evidence yet to back that up.
The study surveyed 43 children, from one month to two years old, in Colorado who had been hospitalized for bronchiolitis. Researchers found that overall, 16 percent of the children had traces of THC in their urine. That figure rose dramatically, to 75 percent, for children who have a parent or caretaker who smokes pot.
“This is the first study to demonstrate the presence of THC metabolites in children exposed to marijuana smoke,” the researchers of the study wrote. “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.”
A separate study found that pregnant women are smoking pot at a higher rate than at least in 2002. In 2014, the study found, 3.9 percent of the women surveyed said they had smoked marijuana in the last month, higher than in 2002, when 2.4 percent of women said the same. The study found that in 2014, nearly 12 percent of pregnant women had smoked marijuana over the last year.
“If the current trends continue, with rates of use among pregnant women increasing as fast as they are in nonpregnant women, the U.S. may face a growing epidemic of prenatal marijuana use with associated consequences for maternal and child health,” said Dr. Qiana Brown, a researcher at Columbia University and a lead author of the study.
Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued a warning that the newborns of women who smoke pot to treat their nausea have a high risk of anemia, might have lower birth weights, and are more likely to have developmental issues. “Although more research is needed, there is strong reason to believe marijuana could be harmful to fetal development,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow in an email to Reuters. “Women who are pregnant should avoid using marijuana, even though it might seem like a ‘natural’ solution to their nausea.”