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As Marijuana Becomes Legal, Doc Warns About Dangers Of Secondhand Pot Smoke On Kids

Marijuana lingers in a child's body.

December 04, 2018 - 4:20 pm

(WWJ) Secondhand smoke is a well-known danger of lighting up cigarettes indoors -- But how about secondhand pot smoke?

Starting on Thursday, recreational marijuana will be legal in Michigan, but health experts have concerns about children being exposed to the drug. Some people believe that because marijuana is from a plant, it's not dangerous. Not true.

WWJ health reporter Dr. Deanna Lites says studies show secondhand marijuana smoke can put your child's health at risk. In a study out of Colorado, urine samples were taken from young children whose parents smoked pot recreationally, and the news wasn't good.

Researchers found that half of the kids had traces of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their urine.

"I think we need to  be concerned about what the effect on the brain is," said Dr. Michael Kraut with Ascension Providence Hospital. "is it going to affect it permanently? Is it going to cause any kind of learning disability? We just have no idea what the long-term effects of that are going to be."

Parents who smoke pot won't save their kids from exposure by going into another room to light up, per a study by the Icahn School of Medicine in New York. It found that kids are still getting exposed when parents stepped outside to smoke pot.

The chemicals can linger in a parent's hair, clothes and on skin, and get passed on to the child. 

"One third of children in the study tested positive for marijuana," Lites reported.

In another study profiled in US News and World Report, researchers studied 43 children who were hospitalized between 2013 and 2015 for a lower respiratory infection called bronchiolitis. Of the children, who were all between 1 month and 2 years old, 16 percent had been exposed to marijuana smoke. "Those children were also more likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke," the study said.

Once a child is exposed to marijuana, it lingers.

Kraut said the metabolites of THC is longer lived than the metabolites of cigarette smoke. If some of it gets in your lungs, it stays in your body longer, Kraut said.

There's been very little research into the dangers of secondhand marijuana smoke, but secondhand cigarette smoke in kids is linked to ear infections; more frequent and severe asthma attacks; respiratory symptoms including bronchitis and pneumonia and a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome. In small studies of rats, similar effects have been found between secondhand pot and cigarette smoke.