Cannabis may contain heavy metals and harm your health

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Scientists from Penn State found that cannabis may contain heavy metals and affect consumer health.

The research is published in Toxin Reviews and was conducted by Louis Bengyella et al.

Cannabis plants—which are used to produce industrial hemp, medical marijuana, and cannabidiol (CBD) oil, among other products—have an inherent ability to absorb heavy metals from the soil, making them useful for remediating contaminated sites.

In the study, the team examined the ability of cannabis plants to absorb heavy metals and discusses the resulting health impacts on consumers.

Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium, are known to be carcinogenic.

The heavy-metal content of cannabis is not regulated; therefore, consumers could unknowingly be exposed to these toxic metals.

This is bad news for anyone who uses cannabis but is particularly problematic for cancer patients who use medical marijuana to treat nausea and pain associated with their treatments.

Compounding the problem is the fact that some cannabis strains have been bred specifically for phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to remove pollutants from soil, water, or air.

In the study, the team examined the available information on the application of cannabis in phytoremediation, the fate of heavy metals in cannabis plants, the medical impact of heavy metals in cannabis, and agricultural strategies to mitigate heavy metal uptake.

They found that some cannabis strains are commonly used for phytoremediation because of their unique physical characteristics—including long stem length, fast growth, high root, and leaf surface area, high photosynthetic activity, and dependence on relatively few nutrients for survival—which facilitate the absorption of heavy metals.

The team also found that lead, cadmium, and chromium, specifically, are capable of being transported and distributed up through the stalk and into the leaves and flowers of the plant.

These heavy metals then exit the plant through trichomes, which are hairlike structures located on the flowers.

The team also found that heavy metal contamination in cannabis can cause various health problems due to the fact that the heavy metals are rarely metabolized, and therefore, accumulate in specific areas of the human body.

The most common mechanism of heavy metal toxicity in the human body is via the production of reactive oxygen species and free radicals, which can damage enzymes, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, and cause cancer and neurological issues.

The researchers conclude that the application of agricultural best practices, such as choosing cannabis varieties that were not bred to better absorb heavy metals and choosing farmland that is free of heavy metals, can mitigate heavy metal contamination.

If you care about cannabis, please read studies that cannabis use disorder is another COVID risk factor, and high-potency cannabis may affect your memory functions.

For more information about cannabis, please see recent studies about cannabis use linked to heart attack risk in these people, and results showing scientists make a weak recommendation for medical cannabis for chronic pain.

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