A recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University has revealed that some marijuana users may have elevated levels of two heavy metals, lead and cadmium, in their blood and urine, raising concerns about potential long-term health issues associated with exposure to these contaminants.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, examined data from over 7,200 adults, with a focus on the 358 participants who reported marijuana use within the past 30 days. The results showed that these individuals had blood lead levels that were 27% higher than those who did not use either marijuana or tobacco. Additionally, their blood cadmium levels were 22% higher, a trend also observed in urine samples.
The research highlights the capacity of cannabis plants to absorb heavy metals from the soil, a phenomenon well-known to scientists. These contaminants can be taken up by the plant and subsequently accumulate in its leaves and flowers. However, this study underscores the potential for these heavy metals to enter the human body through marijuana consumption.
Lead exposure, even at low levels, can have severe consequences, particularly in children, where it can impair brain development, leading to learning and behavioral problems. In adults, chronic lead exposure is associated with increased risks of high blood pressure, heart problems, and kidney damage.
Cadmium, classified as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization, poses its own set of health risks. Exposure to low levels, such as through tobacco smoke, has been linked to kidney disease and weakened bones.
Tiffany Sanchez, an author of the study and an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, cautioned that both lead and cadmium can persist in the body for years, even after exposure ends.
The research analyzed data collected between 2005 and 2018 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. While the study did not differentiate between various methods of marijuana consumption, Sanchez noted that inhalation of these heavy metals appears to be more concerning than ingestion.
“The absorption rate from inhalation is 100%,” she explained. These findings underscore the importance of further research and awareness regarding heavy metal exposure associated with marijuana use.
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