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Toddlers In Danger As Marijuana Exposure Rates Continue To Climb Higher

A study released Monday indicates that as looser policy attitudes toward marijuana become standard across the U.S., the number of very young children exposed to the drug continues to surge.

For most people in the debate on marijuana legalization, discussion on crime rates and the economic benefits of legalization takes a much more prominent role. But the study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics notes an incredible increase in exposure among 5-year-old children and younger totaling 147.5 percent, Time reports.

This increase occurred from 2006 to 2013. From 2000 to 2013, poison control centers reported a total sample size of 1,969 children exposed to the drug. Approximately 75 percent of children were under three.

States that allowed legal medical marijuana before 2000 saw an increase in exposure of 600 percent.

Part of the problem, according to researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, is that marijuana now comes in forms much more attractive to children because adults often want to avoid the harsh and unpleasant effects of smoke on the lungs.

“The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods,” said Henry Spiller, a co-author of the study. “Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive.”

Upon exposure, some children fall into comas, and others experience seizures and decreased breathing, as a result of THC, which is the main psychoactive component of the drug. Of the children exposed, 18 percent were hospitalized.

What’s especially worrying for childhood exposure is that the potency of THC has slowly increased over the past 40 years, sometimes leading to anxiety attacks and even comas in adults, as well.

“Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protection in its laws from the very beginning,” Gary Smith, senior author of the study, told Science Daily.

Some recommendations include mandating specific packaging requirements already used by manufacturers of dangerous chemicals, such as child-resistant packaging and packaging that doesn’t allow children to see the contents.

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