Overview and Objectives

The Cannabis cultivation and processing facility does not typically utilize fresh air ventilation or negative air exhaust out of the building to dilute airborne contaminants and gases. It is a workplace that will expose workers to a unique menu of trapped airborne contaminants.  The peaking exposure levels and total number of contaminants varies based on the multifunctional activities performed in the ongoing growth and processing of cannabis and may not be fully known to the provider.  Airborne Terpenes create an untypical TVOC concentration and odor level that is difficult to minimize or mitigate effectively.  The health impact on the CFF worker is not yet fully realized but expected to be significant and long term in its effects.  There is little or no regulation surrounding occupational exposure to the primary contaminants produced inside the facility. The purpose of this review is to provide an effective and encompassing air testing plan that will assist in further defining the indoor environment, developing innovative and effective mitigation programs and ultimately creating a healthier work environment for building occupants and employees with extended exposure periods.

Image of scientist with mask, goggles and gloves examining cannabis plants in greenhouse, alternative medicine herbal concept, CBD oil, pharmaceutical industry.

Menu of Primary Airborne Contaminants

  1. Biological Contaminants
    1. Molds
    2. Botrytis and powdery mildew
    3. Plant-based Sensitizers and Allergens
  2. Chemicals
    1. Organic VOCs
    2. Terpenes/THC
    3. Class 1, 2, and 3 VOCs such as:
      • Manufactured cleaners,
      • disinfectants,
      • Etc.
  3. PM 2.5, 5.0, and 10.0
    • Particle mass exposure via thoracic inhalation of ultra-fine particles
  1. Organic Dusts — Exposure primarily through thoracic inhalation
    1. Mineral dusts (i.e., fertilizers)
    2. Pesticide residuals
    3. Plant debris
    4. Insect parts
  2.  Gases
    1. Carbon dioxide
    2. Carbon monoxide
    3. Ozone
    4. Nitrogen Oxides
  3. Bioaerosols
    1. Mycotoxins
    2. Endotoxins

Overview of IAQ Assessment Methods

Providing a qualitative (individual identification of the contaminants) and quantitative (a total airborne concentration) analysis of the primary airborne contaminants is the key focus. This will utilize innovative but industry recognized testing protocols to define accurate results. A comprehensive evaluation of the results will be provided as pertains to existing IAQ Standards and Guidelines, potential health impact issues and emerging State regulations. The composite results will be analyzed, and a site-specific mitigation plan will be developed as it pertains to modifications to the existing environment for improved and more acceptable IAQ throughout the building.

Marijuana plants in ultraviolet light.

IAQ Mitigation Focus

  1. IAQ Modifications/HVAC Refinements
    1. Providing filtered and conditioned fresh air ventilation to common areas that employees frequent that won’t negatively impact the growing rooms due to designed pressure differentials.
    2. Utilizing in duct enhanced filtration, odor and contaminant mitigation devices as a supplement to limited ventilation both in work areas and common areas.
    3. In grow rooms, refining the correct mix of technology and air turn rates that are consistent with the number of grams of harvest, air volumes and overall room function and contaminant loads.
    4. Adding proven active/passive technology units in the grow rooms, processing areas, and common areas to reduce Terpene and identified excessive airborne contaminants.
    5. Adding active/passive technology to further enhance IAQ in key sourcing areas and structural points at which odors/contaminants may leak into the outdoor ambient air.
    6. Developing PPE standards for the different functioning areas within the building.
  2. Building Adaptations
    1. Creating separately controlled common areas for employees to use for work breaks, lunch areas and an overall respite when needed.
    2. Developing IAQ monitoring systems to track the IAQ in mitigated areas.
  3. Employee PPE Programs
    1. A review of the IAQ will be performed by a CIH (certified Industrial Hygienist) and a personal protection equipment (PPE) plan will be developed based upon employee exposure and function and modified as  needed to comply with best health practices and emerging state and Federal standards.