A worrying new study shows that marijuana users have elevated levels of cadmium and lead in their blood and urine compared to non-drinkers found.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from a group of more than 7,200 adults and found that the 358 people who reported using marijuana in the past 30 days had 27% higher blood lead levels than those who reported abstaining from both marijuana and tobacco.
The authors found that marijuana users had 21% higher levels of urinary lead in addition to 22% higher blood cadmium levels and 18% higher urine cadmium levels compared to those who did not use marijuana or tobacco.
The researchers examined data from blood and urine samples collected between 2008 and 2015 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics
They divided 7,254 participants into five categories: non-marijuana/non-tobacco use, exclusive marijuana use, exclusive tobacco use, and dual marijuana and tobacco use. They then measured five different metals in the people’s blood and 16 in their urine.
“Because the cannabis plant is a known metal scavenger, we hypothesized that marijuana users would have higher metal biomarker levels compared to non-marijuana users,” said Katlyn McGraw, study author and postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University .
“Our results therefore suggest that marijuana is a source of cadmium and lead exposure,” she added.
There is no safe level of lead exposure, according to the World Health Organization. Even low levels of exposure can affect children’s brain development and lead to behavioral and learning problems. In adults, lead exposure can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, and kidney damage.
Cadmium is classified as carcinogenic by the WHO exposureEven in small amounts, exposure to air, water, or tobacco smoke over time can cause kidney disease and brittle bones.
“For both cadmium and lead, these metals likely stay in the body for years, long after exposure ends,” says Tiffany Sanchez, study author and assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. said NBC News.
The results of the study were published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.