National data reveal that more kids are becoming exposed to their mom and dad's stash of marijuana, particularly in states where the substance is legal.

Children most affected, according to the survey, were six years old and below, and the most common routes of exposure were through inhalation and ingestion. The spike in the rates of exposure is said to be due to the fact that more and more states have accepted marijuana as a legal medical and recreational drug.

The research was conducted by analyzing statistical data from the National Poison Data System, which is the agency that collects and distributes all information from poison control offices in the U.S. The data studied covered the period between 2000 and 2013. As the information was self-reported, minimal human errors, such as underreporting, may be possible. Still, it provided detailed patterns of incidences involving marijuana exposure across the country.

The study findings published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics showed that the exposure of children six years old or younger to marijuana rose by 147 percent from 2006 to 2013. In states where marijuana was legalized due to medical purposes before 2000, the exposure rate increased by about 610 percent.

Children living in states where marijuana remains illegal also showed a 63 percent increase in exposure rates. All in all, a total of 2,000 reports were received by the Poison Control Centers of the U.S. between 2000 and 2013. Children aged three years old and below comprised 75 percent of the total exposed population.

"The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods," said Henry Spiller, study co-author and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive," he added.

Majority of the children experienced mild side effects such as lethargy, irritability, lack of coordination and confusion after marijuana exposure.

Eighteen kids were admitted to the hospital; 17 suffered comma; and 10 experienced seizures.

Because of these, Dr. Gary Smith, senior study author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy says these effects raise a major point of concern.

"Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning," he stated. "Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana."

Photo: Brett Levin | Flickr

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