Summary: Researchers led by Columbia University have found that people who consume cannabis products have surprisingly high levels of the heavy metals cadmium and lead in their bodies. This is according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which examined data from the blood and urine samples of more than 7,000 participants.
Cannabis Consumption Linked to High Levels of Heavy Metals
In a study that may concern cannabis users, researchers from Columbia University discovered that individuals who consume cannabis products have unexpectedly high levels of cadmium and lead in their bodies. “For both cadmium and lead, these metals are likely to stay in the body for years, long after exposure ends,” said study author Tiffany Sanchez, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, analyzed blood and urine samples from over 7,000 participants, categorizing them into exclusive weed users, exclusive tobacco users, dual users, and non-users. Alarmingly, marijuana users had significantly higher levels of cadmium and lead in both urine and blood samples compared to those who don’t use tobacco or marijuana at all.
This finding challenges the conventional wisdom that, while cannabis may not be entirely beneficial, its potential harm is relatively low compared to most other drugs. However, the researchers hypothesized that cannabis might be linked to heavy metal exposure, which can lead to various medical issues, including cancer and brain damage. “Because the cannabis plant is a known scavenger of metals, we hypothesized that individuals who use marijuana will have higher metal biomarker levels compared with those who do not use,” the researchers wrote.
Marijuana plants absorb metals from soil, fertilizers, water, and pesticides. If this is the source of heavy metals in users’ blood, cannabis grown isolated from heavy metal sources may still be safe. The study also found that both dual users and exclusive tobacco users had high levels of cadmium and lead in their blood and urine samples, aligning with the known dangers of smoking cigarettes.
The study did not differentiate between consumption methods, such as smoking, vaping, gummies, dabs, tinctures and edibles. This research is particularly concerning because marijuana is the third most used drug worldwide, and with the rapid spread of legalization and decriminalization, many users believe it poses no harm. “Because marijuana is relatively unregulated in an industry experiencing exponential growth, there is a need to understand contaminant exposures, including metals, associated with marijuana use,” the paper reads.
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