New research reveals that individuals who use marijuana have statistically higher levels of toxic heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, in their blood and urine compared to non-users. The study further affirms marijuana as a source of exposure to these metals, warranting attention from healthcare providers.
HCN Medical Memo
This study underscores the need to discuss potential heavy metal exposure with patients who use marijuana. As healthcare providers, it’s important to consider this factor when treating conditions that may be exacerbated by heavy metals, such as kidney disease, fragile bones, or neurologic disorders.
- The study was published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal on August 30 and was based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2018.
- Among 7,254 adult participants, those who exclusively used marijuana had a 27% increase in blood lead levels and a 22% increase in blood cadmium levels compared to non-marijuana/non-tobacco users.
- Urinary metal levels in exclusive marijuana users also revealed a 21% increase in lead and an 18% increase in cadmium, according to Tiffany Sanchez, the lead author of the study.
“Both cadmium and lead stay in your body for quite a long time. Cadmium is absorbed in the renal system and is filtered out to [sic] through the kidney. So, when you’re looking at urinary cadmium, that’s a reflection of total body burden, how much you have taken in over a long period of chronic exposure.”
– Tiffany Sanchez, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health
- Cadmium is a cancer-causing agent that can lead to kidney disease and fragile bones when consumed in large amounts.
- Despite declining rates of lead exposure, the metal still poses serious health risks, such as reproductive problems, impaired hearing and vision, and reduced IQ.
- As of 2019, more than 48 million Americans reported using marijuana at least once in the last year.
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