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Most states have now legalized medical marijuana, and eight of them allow recreational use for those 21 and older. But researchers say that adult users need to be mindful because secondhand marijuana smoke can have a serious effect on children. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: With help from a new, highly sensitive test, researchers were able to analyze urine samples from 43 babies under the age of two. Pediatrician Karen Wilson with Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York headed this study.
KAREN WILSON: This is the first time we've been able to demonstrate that there is detectable marijuana metabolites in the urine of children who have been exposed.
NEIGHMOND: The babies were in the same room as someone smoking pot. And like secondhand smoke from tobacco, they simply inhaled. It's not known how that might affect them as they grow, but Wilson suspects it won't be good.
WILSON: The biggest concern may be that there's an increased risk of respiratory illnesses and asthma, but I think that we may also see an increased risk of developmental problems and behavioral problems in children who are exposed.
NEIGHMOND: Future research will look at long-term impact. In the meantime, Wilson says, if adults are going to use marijuana, exercise caution.
WILSON: What I really want parents to understand is that smoking marijuana in the presence of your children is not safe. We don't know that this is something that's not going to affect them later on.
NEIGHMOND: Brain development continues until age 25. And when teens and young adults routinely smoke pot, the structure of their brain can actually change and cause problems with memory and problem solving.
Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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