A young woman’s death from an asthma attack, linked to her job at a cannabis-processing facility in Massachusetts, marks a concerning first in the growing cannabis industry.
This case, detailed in a recent report, highlights the potential respiratory dangers for workers in such facilities.
Sudden Onset of Asthma in a Healthy Young Worker
In late May 2021, a 27-year-old woman with no previous history of asthma began working at a Massachusetts cannabis cultivation and processing plant.
Within a few months, she developed respiratory symptoms, including a runny nose, cough, and shortness of breath, believed to be related to her job.
Her initial role involved grinding cannabis, and despite wearing an N95 mask and protective gloves, she was exposed to substantial amounts of allergen-laden dust.
Although her workstation was eventually moved outside the grinding room due to worsening symptoms, her condition continued to deteriorate.
A Fatal Attack
On January 4, 2022, after complaining of increased shortness of breath, the woman suffered a severe asthma attack at work. Despite being rushed to emergency services, she went into cardiopulmonary arrest and tragically passed away three days later.
Emerging Concerns in Cannabis Facilities
This unfortunate incident is not an isolated case in the cannabis industry. Similar instances of work-related asthma have been reported in other cannabis production facilities.
For example, a study in Washington state found 13 of 31 employees at an indoor cannabis production facility displaying asthma-like symptoms. In some cases, the severity of these symptoms forced employees to leave their jobs.
These findings are concerning, particularly in an industry that is rapidly expanding across the U.S.
The report, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscores the need for increased awareness and safety measures in the cannabis production sector.
Call for Safer Work Environments
The young woman’s case serves as a crucial reminder of the potential health risks associated with cannabis processing work.
It highlights the need for employers to recognize and mitigate respiratory hazards, including ensuring proper ventilation and effective dust control measures in these workplaces.
The growing evidence of respiratory issues among cannabis industry workers necessitates urgent attention to occupational health and safety standards in this field.
Employers, health officials, and industry regulators must work together to ensure a safe working environment, particularly as the industry continues to expand.
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