Contrary to popular opinion, cannabis smoke from a bong is a potential health hazard for non-smokers, according to peer reviewed research published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, as Congress prepares to vote this week on legislation that would decriminalize the drug.
Home cannabis bong smoking “significantly increased” levels of fine particulate matter—pollutants numerous scientific studies have linked to issues including cancer, breathing problems and heart attacks—compared to background levels, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.
The researchers measured the concentration of fine particulate matter where a nonsmoker might sit in a household living room during a social cannabis smoking session eight times.
On six occasions, the levels of fine particulate matter increased 100-fold to 1,000-fold from background levels, recording jumps of more than 20-fold from already “high background” levels for the remaining two.
After just 15 minutes of smoking, the average levels of the pollutant were more than twice the threshold deemed hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency, the researchers said, and a single smoking session a day would generate an average concentration roughly five times higher than in the average cigarette-smoking home.
The concentration of fine particulate matter decayed slowly after smoking stopped, the researchers found, with rates still more than 10 times background levels 12 hours afterwards.
The researchers said the study suggests that, “contrary to popular beliefs, bong smoking is not safe,” and the practice actually generates concentrations of fine particulate matter four times greater than cigarette or tobacco hookah smoking.
Decades of scientific research has highlighted the considerable risks of secondhand tobacco smoke, which has been conclusively linked to issues including cancer, a litany of respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and preterm birth. Many countries around the world have banned tobacco smoking indoors to address these concerns. The dangers of secondhand cannabis smoke, while known to contain toxic chemicals, pollutants and cancer-causing substances, has received much less attention due to the drug’s legal status, though the Berkeley researchers say concerns from tobacco have translated to cannabis smoke (though nearly a fifth of U.S. adults believe secondhand cannabis smoke to be safe for adults and around 8% for children, research has found). This concern has not translated to bong smoking, they note, and the research is the first to quantify levels of secondhand cannabis smoke in the home.
What To Watch For
Legalization. While marijuana is still illegal under federal law, many states have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes and polls suggest a majority of Americans support legalization. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill to decriminalize cannabis this week. The bill is widely expected to pass—the House passed a similar bill in 2020—though it faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is not expected to be signed into law.
Cannabis Stocks Are Surging Ahead Of House Vote On Marijuana Legalization Next Week (Forbes)