• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Find Signs of Exposure Secondhand Marijuana Smoke Exposure in Children

  • New York, NY
  • (December 07, 2016)

Children exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke show measurable amounts of the drug in their bodies, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has found. The study was published in the journal Pediatric Research.

The study found that when young children are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke, measurable amounts of primary metabolite of the active component in psychoactive chemical Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) appears in samples of their urine. Because earlier analytical methods were developed to measure biomarkers of marijuana in primary users of the drug, a new, more sensitive analytic method was developed and used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to quantify the trace biomarkers resulting from secondhand marijuana smoke exposure.

“This shows that, like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is inhaled by children in the presence of adults who are using it,” said Karen Wilson, MD, Debra and Leon Black Division Chief of General Pediatrics, and the Vice-Chair for Clinical and Translational Research for the Department of Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “In areas where marijuana use is legal, or common, education is needed to counsel parents on the dangers posed to their children by secondhand smoke.”

For the study, urine samples were collected from 43 babies between the ages of one month and two years who were hospitalized in Colorado with bronchiolitis, and their parents were asked to complete a survey about marijuana smoking habits. The samples were analyzed, and levels of biomarkers for a marijuana metabolite (COOH-THC) were recorded. COOH-THC was detectable in 16 percent of the samples, at concentrations between 0.04 and 1.5 nanograms per milliliter of urine – lower than would be seen in a primary user. This percentage was consistent with the number of parents who self-reported marijuana usage in the survey.

“Parent reported screening questions in areas  where marijuana is legal is a helpful first step,” said Dr. Wilson. “While we do not know yet whether this exposure poses a health risk to children, this study highlights the urgency of further investigation.”


About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in 4 out of 10 pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: It is consistently ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools," aligned with a U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" Hospital, and top 20 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding and top 5 in the nation for numerous basic and clinical research areas. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.

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