7:12 pm - Wednesday December 13, 2017

Health Effects of Indoor Marijuana Cultivation

Study Concerning the Health Impact of Indoor Marijuana Cultivation

 

National Jewish Health’s Dr. John Martyny today announced the results of a study

today designed to determine the health effects from indoor marijuana grow operations.

 

The study was conducted in conjunction with the Colorado Drug Investigators Association (CDIA),

Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), and County Sheriffs of Colorado (CSOC).

These organizations had a growing concern about the safety of their officers involved in entering

and dismantling indoor grow operations.  The Colorado Drug Investigators Association secured a

federal Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) through Colorado’s Division of Criminal Justice to

finance the study, with the chiefs and sheriffs associations helping to provide some additional

funding.

 

Dr. John Martyny, a professor at National Jewish Health, was the primary researcher on this

project.  Dr. Martyny and his team also partnered with law enforcement in 2002 when they

conducted a study regarding the health impact of clandestine methamphetamine labs.  This study

resulted in greater safety policies for officers entering and dismantling labs.  CDIA Vice

President Jerry Peters and CDIA Legislative Liaison Jim Gerhardt coordinated the arrangements

for Dr. Martyny and his team to examine and study actual indoor marijuana grow operations.

 

Dr. Martyny tested thirty indoor marijuana grows.  His research shows that, in residential and

commercial structures, it was difficult to control chemical contamination from pesticides and

fertilizers.  The study also shows that plant irrigation resulted in increased moisture that could

damage building material, result in excessive mold growth, and pose a risk of fire and electrocution.

 

The study shows that highly-elevated airborne levels of mold spores within these

structures subjected occupants, emergency personnel and other individuals to significant

potential health hazards.  Potential health effects include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic

rhinitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases.  Another concern was elevated carbon dioxide

levels which, if generated using fossil fuel combustion, can result in the production of carbon

monoxide resulting in significant health effects, or death, to exposed individuals.

 

Dr. Martyny’s study shows that the greatest risk is to individuals residing in the residence.

However, others may be impacted as well, particularly in multi-family buildings which may

allow chemicals used and mold spores to be introduced into ventilation systems, exposing other

residents.  Exposure to children living in these operations also may result in illness, injury or

death to an innocent child.  Fires may cause damage not only to the indoor grow but also

surrounding houses.  Lastly, Dr. Martyny cites that, since these operations may go undetected, an

unsuspecting family buying the residence at a later date may be put at risk of adverse health

effects due to residual mold contamination.

 

Based on the study and its findings, Dr. Martyny believes that the primary exposure present in

indoor marijuana grows consists of high levels of mold spores, low-toxicity pesticides and other

chemicals, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards.  The recommendation for initial responders,

such as a SWAT team, includes fire-resistant gear, chemical-resistant gloves, boots, and a water-resistant and disposable respirator.  Officers with any kind of immune system deficiencies should

avoid entry into an indoor marijuana grow.  He recommends that investigators involved in the

removal phase wear full-face air-purifying respirators as well as other protective clothing.  Dr.

Martyny emphasizes that his recommendations are minimum suggestions and that, when in

doubt, safety equipment should be upgraded.

 

A copy of the report may be found on the Association’s website www.cdiausa.org.

 

Comments:

 

“Unlike you may hear some suggest, because this is a constitutional right under Amendment

20, we cannot prohibit growing marijuana in neither private residences nor commercial

buildings, both of which are dangerous.  The results of this study are far-reaching not only as

evidence of environmental dangers for first responders, but to children and adults living in

and adjacent to these contaminated environments.”

Ernie Martinez, President, Colorado Drug Investigators Association

 

“DEA agents expect to face certain threats in our job, such as potentially violent criminals,

guns and drugs.  But the unseen dangers in marijuana grow houses that are described in this

study pose an equally serious threat to the health and safety of our agents and law

enforcement partners.”

Barbra Roach, Special Agent in Charge DEA- Denver Division

 

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