Some Soaps May Cause Newborns to Test Positive for THC

What would you do if you found out that your baby tested positive for marijuana, but you never used the drug during pregnancy? Sound a little far-fetched? Maybe not according to a recent study.

baby bath

Researchers decided to investigate possible sources for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, after a nurse from North Carolina reported that she had seen a spike in the number of newborns testing positive for marijuana. They say that they wanted to “help protect families from being falsely accused” of drug use so that the intervention efforts for drug use could go to the infants and families that truly needed it.

During their studies, they found that five different baby soaps could actually cause a positive test result Johnson & Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash, J&J Bedtime Bath, CVS Night-Time Baby Bath, Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash and Aveeno Wash Shampoo. The amount of soap needed to create a positive test was very little – less than 0.1 milliliters, researchers said.

Researchers are unsure as to why the soaps create a positive THC reading, but they have a few ideas – maybe the compounds in the soap have a structure that is somewhat similar to THC or maybe the soaps change the way the test results work. They also believe that the test results are positive because residual soap is finding its way into the baby’s urine sample.

The biggest concern is that a positive test for THC can lead to social services involvement. However, one positive test is rarely enough to create a problem for parents, according to Dr. Carl Seashore, a pediatrician in the newborn nursery at UNC-Chapel Hill, one of the researchers on the study.

“It would only be one piece of the puzzle,” Seashore stated.

Still, it could be a discerning situation for some parents, particularly those that are considered “high risk” for drug use (women who received little to no prenatal care, women with a drug abuse history, etc.) Paired with a sketchy past, a positive test for THC could warrant involvement from child protective services, even if the soap were at fault for the test.

Thankfully, a more sensitive test revealed a negative test result, even when the standard test revealed a positive test result, so the solution could be as simple as sending positive results out for further testing. Unfortunately, these follow-up tests are costly and they take more time. Still, in a situation where a parent may be facing false accusations, it may be a needed extra step.

Catherine Hammett-Stabler, also of UNC-Chapel Hill says that 10 to 40 percent of infants born in their hospital receive testing each month because the mother is considered “high risk.” They now send all positive results out for further testing to ensure that action is only taken for infants that truly need it.

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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