Marijuana Grow Operations & Potential Occupational Exposure Risks

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As more states legalize the use of medical and recreational marijuana, also known as cannabis, commercial grow operations and extraction facilities have become a rapidly growing business in many parts of the country. This multibillion dollar industry already employees thousands of workers and if growth projections are accurate, could employee hundreds of thousands over the next few years.

Much of the marijuana produced comes from indoor marijuana grow operations (MGOs). Many of these facilities can pose unique health and safety risks for their workers. For example, the warm and humid conditions utilized in many grow operations can support the growth of mold. Inhalation exposure to elevated levels of mold can cause allergies, act as a respiratory irritant, trigger an asthma attack in some people with the condition, and some types of mold can even cause opportunistic infections in people with a weakened or suppressed immune system.

Exposure to other potential allergens, dust and particulate matter (PM) is another concern. Workers could also come in contact with various pesticides and fertilizers used by grow operations. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide are produced in some facilities to enhance plant growth. Depending on the source of the CO2, carbon monoxide (CO), various combustion gases and PM may also be present. Reduced ventilation rates to enhance CO2 concentrations can also lead to a buildup of airborne pollutants.

The proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at grow operations and extraction facilities can help protect workers from inhalation risks and dermal exposures. However, the use of latex gloves can be an issue for some employees sensitive to latex allergens. Employees should also have eye and skin protection from the UV light produced by grow lamps.

These are just a few potential occupational exposure risks for workers involved with indoor marijuana grow operations. To learn more about this or other occupational, indoor air quality, building science, environmental, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark
EMSL Analytical, Inc.
LA Testing
Zimmetry Environmental

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