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Cannabis Industry Workers Face Unknown Occupational Hazards

The industry needs to identify potential hazards as the workforce expands.

Information on occupational health hazards in the cannabis industry is limited.

In a recent editorial, University of Washington Professor Christopher Simpson discusses a growing need to identify potential hazards as the workforce expands.

According to Simpson, exposures in cannabis production will likely mirror those experienced in other agricultural or manufacturing operations. 

However, some are unique to this industry, and there is evidence that some exposures may be associated with adverse health effects. 

Potential hazardous exposures include particulate matter, organic dusts, bioaerosols, pollen/allergens, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and ergonomic hazards. 

The industry must not only identify hazards, but evaluate the impacts on cannabis workers, and develop strategies to mitigate exposures. But it’s a tall order. 

For example, workers have reported increased respiratory health effects, but many workers use cannabis, and it’s difficult to separate occupational versus recreational exposures. 

Outside of regular industrial workplace risks, workers are also concerned about potential risks as a result of economic, political and social forces facing the industry, as well as inconsistencies between state and federal law.

The editorial was published in the “Annals of Work Exposures and Health” alongside a collection of papers that examine occupational exposures and health concerns related to workers in the cannabis and hemp industries. 

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