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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of potential hazards during harvesting and processing cannabis at an outdoor organic farm.

Couch J; Victory K; Lowe B; Burton NC; Green BJ; Nayak A; Lemons AR; Beezhold D
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HHE 2015-0111-3271, 2017 Apr; :1-31
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a union representative to evaluate potential hazards associated with harvesting and processing cannabis at an outdoor organic farm. We evaluated ergonomic, chemical, and microbial hazards and conducted medical interviews with employees about their health concerns. Although employees did not report any work-related health problems, we identified some exposures and conditions that could affect employee health. If hand trimming tasks are performed for longer periods than we observed, the repetitive hand motions would create a risk for hand and wrist musculoskeletal disorders. Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in cannabis, was detected on all surface wipe samples collected (cannabis processing areas and on hand trimming scissor blades). This indicates the potential for dermal and ingestion exposures. However, the health implications from occupational exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol are unknown. Air samples indicated that Botrytis cinerea, a plant pathogen, was the main fungal species, while actinobacteria, common soil bacteria, was the most frequently identified bacterial phyla. Airborne exposure to actinobacteria and fungus like Botrytis cinerea can increase the risk of allergic and respiratory symptoms. Air samples for endotoxins were all below the occupational exposure limit. We also found that employees used latex gloves, which can cause allergic reactions. Glove use was required for some tasks. NIOSH investigators recommended (1) changing procedures and improving tools to reduce the potential for musculoskeletal disorders, (2) developing a cleaning schedule for work and tool surfaces, (3) training employees on tool cleaning, lubrication, sharpening, and maintenance, and (4) wearing nonlatex gloves when handling cannabis, cannabis products, or equipment that contacts cannabis.
Region 10; Agricultural workers; Agricultural products; Agricultural industry; Agriculture; Repetitive strain injury; RSI; Repetitive stress; Repetitive work; Cumulative trauma; Cumulative trauma disorders; CTD; Hand injuries; Extremities; Musculoskeletal disorders; MSD; Musculoskeletal system disorders; MSD; Dermal exposures; Dermal absorption; Ergonomics; Bacteria; Bacterial dusts; Endotoxins; Microorganisms; Allergies; Protective clothing; Personal protective equipment; Training; Gloves; Author Keywords: Tobacco Farming; cannabis; marijuana; ergonomics; fungal; bacteria; hand; endotoxin; THC; surface wipe; chemical; biological; physical; metagenomics
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Health Hazard Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
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Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Healthcare and Social Assistance; Services
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health