Respiratory Hazards in The Cannabis Industry

Workers in the weed industry are subject to increased health risks due on-the-job exposure to various pollutants in the air.

As the cannabis industry has expanded its footprint and become more widespread, employees in industry growing facilities have developed a number of different ailments, including abnormal lung function, an allergy to cannabis, and airway inflammation from increased levels of exhaled nitrous oxide.

The issue has become so widespread that within the last few years, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries issued a hazard alert. The alert, “Marijuana & Work-Related Asthma,” is a public service announcement on  the connection between work-related breathing issues and inhalation of plant dust in cannabis grow facilities.

Despite the PSA, very little has been done to fix the issue, as a cannabis employee recently died from inhaling weed dust at a grow and production facility, according to an OSHA report

The employee, who was grinding weed and filling it into pre-rolls, had complained of not being able to breathe because of the dust.

The ground cannabis dust, also referred to as kief, is the sticky powder containing the loose trichomes falling off the flower.Health risks from cannabis dust are not the only work hazards that exist in the industry. 

Other MSOs have experienced widespread infestations of mold in their facilities, as one of the unique challenges in the industry is that it is a combination of farm and factory work.

Researchers recommend that cannabis facilities adopt the same standards that exist in the cotton industry to eliminate the dust and pollutants, until specific cannabis industry guidelines are developed.

Until workplace guidelines for cannabis grow and production facilities are developed, we can expect to see more of these cases in the news over time.

AIRBOX Air Purifiers use certified HEPA, activated carbon, and antimicrobial filters to reduce airborne contaminants down to 0.01 microns and help abate odors at the property line. Consider using AIRBOX units to meet cannabis compliance standards and indoor OSHA safe work conditions.

Author: Helaine Krysik
Mayo Clinic, AAAA&I, Safety & Health Magazine, State of Washington, OSHA

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