Passive cannabis smoke exposure and oral fluid testing

Sam Niedbala, Keith Kardos, Sal Salamone, Dean Fritch, Matth Bronsgeest, Edward J. Cone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Oral fluid testing for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) provides a convenient means of detection of recent cannabis usage. In this study, the risk of positive oral fluid tests from passive cannabis smoke exposure was investigated by housing four cannabis-free volunteers in a small, unventilated, and sealed room with an approximate volume of 36 m3. Five active cannabis smokers were also present in the room, and each smoked a single cannabis cigarette (1.75% THC). Cannabis smoking occurred over the first 20 min of the study session. All subjects remained in the room for approximately 4 h. Oral fluid specimens were collected with the Intercept DOA Oral Specimen Collection Device. Three urine specimens were collected (0, 20, and 245 min). In addition, three air samples were collected for measurement of THC content. All oral fluid specimens were screened by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for cannabinoids (cutoff concentration = 3 ng/mL) and tested by gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS-MS) for THC (LOQ/LOD = 0.75 ng/mL). All urine specimens were screened by EIA for cannabinoids (cutoff concentration = 50 ng/mL) and tested by GC-MS-MS for THCCOOH (LOQ/LOD = 1 ng/mL). Air samples were measured for THC by GC-MS (LOD = 1 ng/L). A total of eight oral fluid specimens (collected 20 to 50 min following initiation of smoking) from the four passive subjects screened and confirmed positive for THC at concentrations ranging from 3.6 to 26.4 ng/mL. Two additional specimens from one passive subject, collected at 50 and 65 min, screened negative but contained THC in concentrations of 4.2 and 1.1 ng/mL, respectively. All subsequent specimens for passive participants tested negative by EIA and GC-MS-MS for the remainder of the 4-h session. In contrast, oral fluid specimens collected from the five cannabis smokers generally screened and confirmed positive for THC throughout the session at concentrations substantially higher than observed for passive subjects. Urine specimens from active cannabis smokers also screened and confirmed positive at conventional cutoff concentrations. A biphasic pattern of decline for THC was observed in oral fluid specimens collected from cannabis smokers, whereas a linear decline was seen for passive subjects suggesting that initial oral fluid contamination is cleared rapidly and is followed by THC sequestration in the oral mucosa. It is concluded that the risk of positive oral fluid tests from passive cannabis smoke inhalation is limited to a period of approximately 30 min fol lowing exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-552
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


Dive into the research topics of 'Passive cannabis smoke exposure and oral fluid testing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this