From Our 2007 Archives

Study Shows Toxins in Marijuana Smoke

Levels of Some Toxins Higher in Pot Cigarettes Than in Tobacco Cigarettes, Experts Say

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 14, 2007 -- New research from Canada shows that some toxins may be more abundant in marijuana cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes.

The researchers burned 30 marijuana cigarettes and 30 tobacco cigarettes on a machine in their lab, measuring levels of chemicals in the smoke.

Ammonia levels were up to 20 times higher in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke. Levels of hydrogen cyanide and nitrogen-related chemicals were three to five times higher in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke.

The nitrogen-based fertilizer used on the marijuana plants -- which all came from the same batch of Canadian pot plants -- may have affected the results. The temperatures used to burn the cigarettes may also have been a factor.

Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke shared many of the same chemicals. But the two types of smoke weren't identical.

For instance, marijuana doesn't contain nicotine. And tobacco doesn't contain cannabinoids, which include THC, marijuana's active ingredient

Tobacco has long been linked to cancer and other health problems. Marijuana smoke hasn't been tied to cancer in the past, note the researchers, who included David Moir of the Safe Environments Programme in Kitchener, Ontario.

Moir and colleagues report their findings in the advance online edition of Chemical Research in Toxicology.

They promise to compare the toxicity of marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke in animals in another study.

SOURCES: Moir, D. Chemical Research in Toxicology, Dec. 7, 2007; advance online edition. News release, American Chemical Society.

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