The Michigan Daily-Saturday, August 4, 1979-Page 9
Paraquat effects can be irreversible-gov't
WASHINGTON (AP)-Smoking marijuana that is
contaminated with the herbicide paraquat cancause
serious, sometime irreversible lung damage when
inhaled in sufficient quantities, the government said
In one of his final acts as secretary of health,
educati9n, and welfare (HEW), Joseph Califano Jr.
announced the results of a study by HEW agencies of
the dangers associated with paraquat and
"There is a direct relationship between the amount
of paraquat inhaled and the extent and severity of
lung damage that results," Califano wrote Secretary,
of State Cyrus Vance.
"LUNG DAMAGE from intermittent or short-term
exposlure may be reversible, but frequent, high-level
exposure over a long period of time can result in a
severe form of damage called fibrosis," Califano
Paraquat has been used to spray marijuana grown
in Mexico as part of a campaign to wipe out plants
which might eventually be exported to the United
States. Until last year, under supervision of the State
Department's foreign aid program, the U.S. gover-
nment paid for some of the herbicide.
Last year, Congress voted to prohibit use of federal
funds for paraquat spraying if it "is likely to cause
serious harm to the health" of marijuana users,
unless the marijuana is treated or marked to warn
users it is contaminated.
CALIFANO'S REPORT was issued two months af-
ter he refused to relax controls on marijuana even for
medical research. Marijuana and its components are
considered the same as heroin and LSD under the
government's stringent drug regulations and are not
accepted for medical use.
Califano said there is a great variance in American
smokers' exposure to paraquat-contaminated
marijuana. Less than one per cent of the samples
confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Administration
from the East Coast, Middle West, and Pacific Nor-
thwest regions were contaminated. But more than 12
per cent of the samples from the Southwest contained
paraquat, he said.
HEW has estimated that between 15 and 100
marijuana smokers a year in the Southwest are ex-
posed to enough paraquat-contaminated marijuana
to suffer a toxic reaction in their lungs.
Another 2,000 Southwesterners are exposed to
enough paraquat to suffer less severe lung damage,
HEW's health analysis was provided by the Center
for Disease Control and the National Institute of En-
vironmental Health Services. Califano said the En-
vironmental Protection Agency concurred in the
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