Marijuana Grow Operations an Increasing Risk, Colorado Officials Say

DENVER -- Colorado Attorney General John Suthers came to AIHce on Tuesday to spread the word about a growing problem faced by emergency responders and law enforcement personnel: marijuana-growing operations.

Speaking at a news conference held at the mock meth lab at the AIHce expo, Suthers thanked the IH community for helping the law enforcement community understand and cope with the hazards found at meth laboratories, such as phosgene and anhydrous ammonia, and he said their expertise is needed to analyze and communicate with the public about marijuana grow operations' hazards.

"Other drug production problems are arising," Suthers said. He said there has been a steep increase statewide in large marijuana growing operations, triggered in part by medical marijuana laws in Colorado. Carbon monoxide and mold are hazards responders face when raiding and cleaning up these operations, he said. "The medical marijuana laws in Colorado suggest that these grow labs will only increase," Suthers said.

An industrial hygienist from National Jewish Health in Denver said Colorado officials first heard about hazards associated with marijuana-growing operations from colleagues in Canada who had experienced them. Now, firefighters in Colorado are increasingly responding to fires caused by makeshift electrical wiring installed for growing operations, he said, and serious mold hazards are encountered because the growers typically place their plants indoors, in confined areas, with high humidity and carbon dioxide levels.

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