The Dangers of the Cannabis Industry


The rapid booming of the cannabis industry has seemingly happened overnight, with the recently passed marijuana laws that have passed for both medical and recreational use in many states around the United States. The cannabis industry has gained notoriety for both its benefits to human health and its steady increase spending throughout the country.

According to the Arcview Market Research that was published by Forbes, they found that over the next decade that the legal cannabis industry will see an overwhelming increase of nearly $57 billion dollars in spending for this industry. Due to this increase in spending, we will see an increase of cannabis grow houses as well as an increase in workers that will enter into the cannabis market and be surrounded daily by the environment of the grow areas of the cannabis crops.

Dangers and health concerns have come to the forefront in regard to the occupational hazards present to those individuals that are working in the cannabis industry. From biological, chemical, disinfectant/chemical cleaners, and even physical hazards that they may come into contact with on the job.

In this article we are going to discuss the dangers that are present in the cannabis industry that can impact cannabis workers that are exposed to the different hazards within the grow room/houses where the cannabis crops are growing.

Understanding Occupational Hazards in Grow Rooms

Just like most jobs, there are potential hazards that can be present for those individuals that are working in the cannabis grow houses. The process of cultivating and harvesting the cannabis crop is a labor intensive and potentially dangerous activity that can lead to organic dusts, bioaerosols, pollen/allergens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), THC, noise, and even ultraviolet lights that can be hazardous to human health. Depending on the tasks and jobs that you are assigned to perform within a cannabis grow house, there are a variety of different health hazards that a person may face.

The occupations listed below within the cannabis market and industry are all workers that may experience certain hazards while performing their jobs.

  1. Cultivator: The cultivator manages the planting and harvesting of the cannabis crop in the grow house. The interactions between the cultivator and the crops creates many hazards including mold, allergens, Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide exposure, pesticide, lighting hazards, and potential chemical exposures.
  2. Trimmer: True to its name, the trimmer trims the crops and packages them for shipment. During this interaction with the cannabis crop, an individual will become potentially exposed to mold, allergens, Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide, pesticides, occupational injuries, chemical exposure, and potential machinery hazards.
  3. Extraction Technician: The extraction technician is responsible for extracting the marijuana concentrates. When the extraction process occurs, it can result in potential hazards from the machinery, indoor air quality, allergens, noise, and exposure to explosive or flammable chemicals like butane.

There is a list of other occupations within the industry that are also impacted by different hazards from the cannabis grow rooms, and they can all range depending on the duties and the type of exposure. Below we are going to go into detail on the major sources of hazards that are found within the cannabis industry and discuss how to protect cannabis employees from these dangers.

Cannabis’s Effects on Indoor Air Quality

The cannabis industry has had major effects on a number of different factors including spending, job growth, medicinal benefits, and even an effect on the quality of the indoor air within and surrounding the grow houses/rooms. Recent research and studies that have been conducted have found a strong correlation between cannabis grow houses and the effects on indoor air quality within the cannabis grow rooms and surrounding areas.

Did you know that there are over 400 chemicals that are present within marijuana? However, only about 60 of these chemicals are actually unique to the cannabis plant. Among the chemicals that are produced from a marijuana plant, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be very hazardous and compromising to the indoor air quality. When VOCs are emitted into the air, they can react with oxides of nitrogen within sunlight to create a very dangerous ground-level ozone. The creation of ozone in the air from cannabis is something that can significantly taint the indoor air quality and lead to potentially severe health issues in those exposed.

Safety Guide for Workers in Marijuana Industry

When it comes to the marijuana industry one of the largest states to engage in and produce cannabis is the state of Colorado. Due to the heavy use and manufacturing of cannabis crops, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment created a guide to worker safety and health in the marijuana industry to help regulate and control work environments that produce and distribute cannabis. Below we are going to go into detail on the guide that was produced for the cannabis industry to protect workers safety and health in these work environments.

Biological Hazards

Unsurprisingly, when you are dealing with plants you are at risk of certain biological hazards in the environment. A biological agent that can be found when growing plants is bacteria and fungi, which under the right circumstances have the ability to significantly impact human health in a variety of ways, such as causing nasal congestion, throat irritation, and a list of other adverse health symptoms. When dealing with biological hazards in a grow room the two most commonly found agents that can be a hazard to the environment and workers is mold and sensitizers/allergens.


The manufacturing of marijuana crops requires specific climate and environmental conditions to promote growth and maintain the health of the plant. Humidity levels are important within a cannabis grow room – with humidity levels needing to be as high as 70 percent in the environment for proper growth. Although the humidity is good for the cannabis crops, it will also compromise the environment and create a potential for mold to grow in the indoor space. As mold forms and grows inside of an indoor space, the mold will begin to produce and emit mold spores into the air in an effort to reproduce. However, these spores can be extremely hazardous to the health of those exposed to the spores as they can cause respiratory irritation and other potential health issues.

If you are under the notion that your grow house or facility has been compromised by mold growth, then it will be necessary to assess the hazards and determine what PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is needed for employee protection. A best practice to implement into the cannabis facility when mold is growing is to create and engineer a solution to control and eliminate exposure to mold.

Sensitizers/ Allergens

Marijuana produces several different allergens and sensitizers into the environment during its growth process. There have been several case reports that have found some individuals when exposed to these pollutants will experience allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to the marijuana. A marijuana allergy can be elicited from the specific IgE that is found in the cannabis crop that will elicit symptoms from inhalation, smoking, touching, or eating marijuana. Skin contact is a particular concern when it comes to an allergy to marijuana, as it can create hives, itchy skin, and swollen irritated eyes.

The further you are exposed to this allergen in the environment it will potentially progress and result in abnormal responses. For those that have an allergy to cannabis that work in a role that has direct contact with the plant should be evaluated and proper PPE should be assigned to this worker.

Chemical Hazards

In a cannabis grow house where the crop is being manufactured there can be an amalgam of potential chemical hazards that can be swirling within the air of the enclosed space. A cannabis grow house or facility where the plants are being grown can have an emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and even pesticides that can be present in the indoor air that is being breathed in by workers. The effects that these chemical hazards can have on employee health that is exposed to and breathing in these pollutants can range in severity depending on the amount of exposure and the level of chemical pollutants in the air.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a known toxic gas that is nearly undetectable in the environment due to its colorless and odorless characteristics. When carbon monoxide is present in the air it can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. The scary reality of carbon monoxide exposure is that often times individuals will not be aware of exposure until symptoms overcome them without warning – and some individuals can die from CO exposure.

Tasks or duties that can be at risk of exposure to this chemical hazard includes those who work with or near furnaces, hot water heaters, portable generators, concrete cutting saws, compressors, fork lifts, space heaters, welding, and gasoline powered pumps. Therefore, those workers in the cannabis facility that are in the cultivation process, that work near generators or where indoor equipment is being used can be at risk of carbon monoxide exposure. The best way to monitor your cannabis grow facility for carbon monoxide in the air is by using and implementing a carbon monoxide (CO) monitor with an alarm in the environment.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

The chemical carbon dioxide is used heavily in the marijuana industry to help increase and promote plant growth and to produce concentrates. In a cannabis grow facility where the crop is growing, carbon dioxide levels can be high, which will result in stronger plants. When you are dealing with carbon dioxide at normal levels it will not pose a great threat or harm to health. However, when the CO2 reaches higher concentrations it can turn into a gas or vapor that will displace oxygen. The symptoms that a person may experience from carbon dioxide exposure will include headaches, dizziness, rapid breathing, increased heart, and potentially death.

Those workers that mainly work within the cultivation facility are most at risk of carbon dioxide exposure. Within this area you will want to install a CO2 monitoring device that will track carbon dioxide levels.


The marijuana cultivation facilities will potentially need to utilize insecticides and fungicides within their facility to combat insects or other organism that are harmful to cultivated plants like cannabis. Although these pesticides are useful in a marijuana grow house, they can create health issues that are associated with dermal and respiratory toxicity for workers who are applying these chemicals in the space. Workers that apply pesticides without proper PPE can significantly put themselves at risk.

Chemical Cleaners

It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment for their employees by properly cleaning the environment with cleaning chemicals. However, employees must be notified of the disinfectants/cleaners that are used to warn them of the potential hazards. When specific chemicals, such as bleach are used routinely, they can be corrosive to the environment and could possibly impact the health of those who are exposed to the cleaner. Therefore, it is important to monitor the chemicals that are used in the cleaning products to minimize the chemicals that will enter into the air space.

Physical Hazards

No matter the work place there are going to be certain physical hazards that can impact employees if mishandled or accidents occur. A physical hazard can either cause physical harm or injury to the person that can be caused from a variety of sources in the work place, including the following:

  • Compressed Gases that can lead to explosion hazards or a fire.
  • Occupational Injuries from cuts, burns, and infections from a lack of PPE.
  • Workplace Violence that can result in injury and mental health effects.
  • Electrical hazards that will cause burns, shock, and electrocution.
  • Noise dangers from working with noisy tools that can damage hearing.
  • Machine injuries that can lead to burns, explosions, hand injury, and entrapment.

Many of these physical hazards are probable and can occur in the cannabis industry. When it comes to one of the most common physical hazards in relation to the cannabis industry, lighting health risks is among the top of the list.

Lighting Health Risks

Grow houses and rooms utilize an extensive amount of lighting to help increase crop growth. Metal halide lights are placed in veg rooms and will emit UV radiation along with visible light in the space. The production of UV radiation, however, can be a potentially hazardous factor to health, particularly to the eye which can cause photokeratitis – a painful eye condition. UV lights are helpful to fight against germicidal invaders in the environment, however, it is important to use lighting and machines that do not produce hazardous ozone within their UV lights.

Mitigating Cannabis Grow Rooms Using Air Purifier With UV-C Lights

With the many hazards that are present in the environment of a cannabis grow facility you will need to have in place mitigation tools that will protect the indoor air for the employees in the facility. Air purifiers are becoming a popular tool for those in the cannabis industry that are looking to combat pollutants in the air of the indoor grow house, along with regulating and controlling cannabis odors that can potentially get a company in trouble with by law enforcement who is enforcing stricter odor regulations for cannabis growers.

The most popular air filtration and air purifier technologies that most cannabis industry businesses utilize includes carbon and ozone, however, these technologies have severe impurities when it comes to health hazard removal in the cannabis grow houses. Are carbon filters safe? Carbon acts like a sponge and will eventually become re-released back into the air, recontaminating the air after filtration. The ozone machine dangers, on the other hand, will produce and create byproducts into the air that can be extremely hazardous to human health after exposure.

The EnviroKlenz UV Air Purifier is an air filtration device that is able to address a variety of air pollutants in the air from cannabis manufacturing such as allergens, VOCs, noxious odors, and microorganisms (like mold spores, bacteria, and viruses). EnviroKlenz contains a patented earth mineral technology that is able to break down and eliminate chemicals and noxious odors from the air that pass through the EnviroKlenz air filter. The second stage filtration is a hospital-grade HEPA filter that is able to capture particulate matter larger than 0.3 microns in size such as allergens and microorganisms. Above the HEPA filter there are UV-C lights that shine on the collected microorganisms will effectively kill and destroy microorganisms that were collected on this filter with a high-efficiency of kill.

UV-C lights or germicidal UV are at a much more specific wavelength than what is termed “UV” broadly, which encompasses the wavelengths of 100-380 nm. UV-C are low-pressure lamps, more like a fluorescent lamp, with a specific wavelength of 253.7 nm (1182.5 THz). To create ozone from UV, the light wavelength would need to be in the range from 160-240 nm. Since the EnviroKlenz UV Air Purifier is UV-C, it has a wavelength of 254 nm, which is outside of the ozone producing range.

EnviroKlenz® Medical Disclaimer:

“Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”

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