When you think about dangerous things your young child might accidentally ingest, pills, marbles, and common household cleaners probably come to mind. But a new study out of Ohio's Nationwide Children's Hospital suggests pot should be added to the list. Researchers found that more kids are being exposed to marijuana—by the age of 5, they report in Clinical Pediatrics. Between 2006 and 2013, the marijuana exposure rate rose 147.5% among kids 5 and under, according to a press release—and it rose nearly 610% during that period in states that legalized medical marijuana before the year 2000 (by our count, five). During the 2000 to 2013 period, there were 1,969 marijuana exposures reported among this group to Poison Control Centers; that's an average exposure rate of 5.90 per million children, with the 2013 rate at just above 10 per million.
While that's modest, and while most consequences were minor, 17 kids experienced comas and 10 had seizures. Of the children exposed, nearly 78% were under three, with the average age being 1.81. Three-quarters of the exposures happened via ingestion (15% were via inhalation)—likely due to the popularity of pot brownies, cookies, and candy, which the study calls "attractive" to young children. "Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths," notes one co-author. Researchers are particularly concerned about how quickly the rate of exposure rises when states legalize pot—nearly 16% per year in states where legalization occurred between 2000 and 2013, with a bigger increase in the first year of legalization. "With more states likely to legalize marijuana," the study says, pot products should be covered by the same protection requirements as medication and household chemicals—think childproof containers. (Another new study has bad news for teen potheads.)