Detecting biomarkers of secondhand marijuana smoke in young children

Journal name:
Pediatric Research
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The impact of secondhand marijuana smoke exposure on children is unknown. New methods allow detection of secondhand marijuana smoke in children.


We studied children ages 1 mo to 2 y hospitalized with bronchiolitis in Colorado from 2013 to 2015. Parents completed a survey, and urine samples were analyzed for cotinine using LC/MS/MS (limits of detection 0.03ng/ml) and marijuana metabolites including COOH-THC (limits of detection 0.015ng/ml).


A total of 43 subjects had urine samples available for analysis. Most (77%) of the subjects were male, and 52% were less than 1 y of age. COOH-THC was detectable in 16% of the samples analyzed (THC+); the range in COOH-THC concentration was 0.03–1.5ng/ml. Two subjects had levels >1ng/ml. Exposure did not differ by gender or age. Non-white children had more exposure than white children (44 vs. 9%; P < 0.05). 56% of children with cotinine >2.0ng/ml were THC+, compared with 7% of those with lower cotinine (P < 0.01).


Metabolites of marijuana smoke can be detected in children; in this cohort, 16% were exposed. Detectable COOH-THC is more common in children with tobacco smoke exposure. More research is needed to assess the health impacts of marijuana smoke exposure on children and inform public health policy.


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  1. Department of Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York

    • Karen M. Wilson
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, Elk Grove Village, Illinois

    • Karen M. Wilson &
    • Michelle R. Torok
  3. ACCORDS, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado

    • Michelle R. Torok
  4. Tobacco and Volatiles Branch, Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

    • Binnian Wei,
    • Lanqing Wang,
    • Connie S. Sosnoff &
    • Benjamin C. Blount
  5. Pediatric Hospital Medicine, Children’s Hospital, Aurora, Colorado

    • Michelle Robinson

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