University of Vermont warns of ‘hemp farmer’s lung’

The University of Vermont is warning hemp growers that molds and yeasts in hemp crops could give rise to employee health risks similar to those seen in the production of other crops.

In a note to farmers this month, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program warned that airborne yeast and mold spores in cannabis plants can produce a “perfect storm of microbiological problems.”

The agronomists noted that many of the yeasts and molds found on hemp are relatively harmless to consumers. But they added that people working with hemp may be at risk for getting sick, especially from Botrytis cinerea or gray mold.

The university notes that yeast and mold exposure is a long-understood risk in processing other crops, such as berries and wine grapes. The school cautioned cannabis producers to be especially vigilant about worker mold and yeast exposure to prevent what could be called “hemp farmer’s lung.”

“While cultivation of hemp has occurred since ancient times, the legal production of hemp is relatively new, meaning risks associated with cultivation of hemp have not been investigated as thoroughly as risks associated with other crops,” the university said.

“Further investigation is clearly needed for determining yeast and mold standards which are reasonable and acceptable for both indoor and outdoor hemp cultivation and processing areas.”

Read more about controlling common cannabis pathogens here.