• 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

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system encompassing seven hospital campuses, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation.

The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians; 10 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 13 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 18 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Nephrology, and Neurology/Neurosurgery, and in the top 50 in four other specialties in the 2017-2018 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and 50th for Ear, Nose, and Throat, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai West are ranked regionally.

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