CLEVELAND, Ohio -- More than a dozen students at an elementary school in Cleveland were admitted to the hospital after being exposed to gummy candy that police say contained marijuana.
On Monday, a teacher's aide at the school found the gummies in a room the children were in, and she noticed that the packaging said the candy contained drugs, according to a Cleveland Division of Police report. The school called police and emergency medical services.
Cleveland Police arrested Shari Gould, the mother of a student who they say brought the candy to Anton Grdina elementary school, on suspicion of endangering children, according to the report. Efforts to reach Gould for comment were not successful.
The police report says the student gave the candy to at least 12 others. Fifteen children, ages 5 to 9, were tested for drugs and released from Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, said Katelyn McCarthy, a media relations strategist at the hospital.
She said that a couple of the children complained of stomachaches.
The police report noted that one of the children tested positive for a mind-altering chemical found in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC.
According to our partners at WJW in Cleveland, city officials are reviewing video connected to this incident which "appears to show an EMS worker demonstrating what appears to be an inappropriate gesture." That worker has been temporarily reassigned, per standard procedure, according to WJW.
The case is just one example of how accidental exposure to marijuana or other substances in young children can lead to health concerns.
"The concerns with marijuana edibles are, they are attractive and palatable to children and can contain high amounts of THC," said Dr. Sam Wang, a pediatrician and toxicologist at Children's Hospital Colorado, who is not involved in the case but has conducted research on unintentional exposures to marijuana in children.
"When young children consume them, they can result in severe symptoms, including dizziness, excessive sleepiness and, in rare circumstances, impair their breathing," he said.
In a paper published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics last year, Wang and his colleagues found that visits to Children's Hospital Colorado related to marijuana exposures more than doubled in 2017 compared with in 2016, and calls to regional poison centers climbed.
"Our hospital has continued to see an increase in young children presenting to the ED; however, the severity of symptoms appear to be less," Wang said, adding that the rise might be related to how marijuana is more common in Colorado due to legalization of recreational marijuana.
Meanwhile, Colorado's "THC dose limitations may have helped decrease some of the severity of illness," he said.
To help keep marijuana products out of the hands of young children, he recommends proper storage, such as keeping products up and out of reach in locked containers; regulations, such as child-resistant packaging; and educating the public about potential health risks.
It's key to safely store marijuana products far from where children can see them, said Dr. Suzan Mazor, director of toxicology for Seattle Children's Hospital and a toxicology consultant for the Washington Poison Center, who was not involved in the Cleveland case.
Also, "make sure to have the poison center phone number on hand for caretakers, grandparents: 1-800-222-1222," said Mazor, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"Young children react differently to marijuana -- different than adults or teens usually do," she said. "They're more likely to be sleepy, with difficulty walking and extreme confusion after an exposure to marijuana. Also, since kids are smaller, they get a bigger dose per pound of body weight from the same-size edible product, so they are more likely to have severe effects."