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Colorado Study Finds One in Six Children Hospitalized for Lung Inflammation Test Positive for Marijuana Exposure

4/30/2016


Few states where marijuana use is legal restrict its use around children.

BALTIMORE, MD – 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 for marijuana exposure.

The study, "Marijuana Exposure in Children Hospitalized for Bronchiolitis," recruited parents of previously healthy children between one month of age and two years old who were admitted to Children's Hospital Colorado (CHC) between January 2013 and April 2014 with bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the smallest air passages in the lung. The parents completed a questionnaire about their child's health, demographics, exposure to tobacco smoke, and as of October 2014, whether anyone in the home used marijuana. Marijuana became legal in Colorado on January 1, 2014.

Of the children who were identified as having been exposed to marijuana smokers, urine samples showed traces of a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, in 16 percent of them. The results also showed that more of the children were THC positive after legalization (21 percent, compared with 10 percent before), and non-white children were more likely to be exposed than white children.

The findings suggest that secondhand marijuana smoke, which contains carcinogenic and psychoactive chemicals, may be a rising child health concern as marijuana increasingly becomes legal for medical and recreational use in the United States, said lead researcher Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAP, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and section head at CHC. Most states with legal marijuana do not restrict its combustion around children, she said.

"Our study demonstrates that, as with secondhand tobacco smoke, children can be exposed to the chemicals in marijuana when it is smoked by someone nearby," Dr. Wilson said. "Especially as marijuana becomes more available and acceptable, we need to learn more about how this may affect children's health and development." In the meantime, she said, "marijuana should never be smoked in the presence of children."

Dr. Wilson will present the abstract, "Marijuana Exposure in Children Hospitalized for Bronchiolitis," at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2, in room 342 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Read the abstract.​ 

Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal. Contact the researcher for more information.

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The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals united by a common mission: to improve child health and wellbeing worldwide. This international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics, experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, and Society for Pediatric Research. For more information, visit the PAS Meeting online at www.pas-meeting.org, follow us on Twitter @PASMeeting and #PASMeeting, or like us on Facebook.