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Marijuana and work-related asthma: New hazard alert

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Photo: Dolores Preciado/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — Exposure to cannabis dust, fume or smoke can lead to the development of work-related asthma, warns a new hazard alert from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Workers at risk include cannabis growers, production staff, extract manufacturers, retail stockers, laboratory and research personnel, and police and drug enforcement officers. According to the alert, exposure to dust from a marijuana plant’s leaves, buds and stem – along with pollen and smoke – are linked to allergic reactions. Additionally, exposure can lead to a rash or potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

After exposure, workers may experience:

  • Difficulty breathing, along with wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.
  • Asthma symptoms from ongoing everyday exposures or a one-time event.
  • Asthma development despite having been exposed to cannabis for years.

Other asthma-causing substances in the cannabis industry include mold, pesticides, soil components, ozone and cleaning chemicals.

Washington L&I advises workers to notify their employer if they feel shortness of breath while on the job; talk to a health care provider about any health symptoms related to their job; and consult a safety and health expert to help with ventilation, respiratory protection and protective clothing.

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