Measurable amounts of the 'probable carcinogen' in weedkiller have been found in most of our bodies
- Weedkillers like the popular Roundup contain an active ingredient that a survey has been identified as being in four out of five bodies of Americans, based on a sample.
- A unit of the World Health Organization unit considers the ingredient, glyphosate, to probably be carcinogenic.
- Yet some regulators, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have found it to be safe, just as maker Bayer insists.
And a toxicology expert who has been active in researching the effects of the ingredient, glyphosate, tells SurvivorNet that she suspects it could be even more widespread.Read More
Glyphosate was listed as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers it safe. Yet Germany’s Bayer, which acquired Roundup developer Monsanto, has faced a mountain of lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging that Roundup caused their cancers.
‘Controversy and Concern’
In the new survey, measurable amounts of glyphosate were discovered in nearly 82% of 2,310 urine samples collected from adults and children. The survey was by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The survey was intended to help solve a mystery: just how widespread has glyphosate in the population.
“Controversy and concern that the rising use of glyphosate may have adverse human-health effects exist. Yet, the extent of human exposure to glyphosate in the U.S. population is largely unknown,” the survey, published in June, states.
Controversy has swirled for years. A 2019 study found exposure to glyphosate-laced weedkillers could increase cancer risk — non-Hodgkin lymphoma in particular — by 41%.
A co-author of that study, Dr. Luoping Zhang, an adjunct professor specializing in toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley, called the new survey that sheds more light on the issue “great and exciting.” But she added in a note to SurvivorNet that “I suspect the actual prevalence could be even higher.”
She pointed to a study released last year in which detectable levels of glyphosate were revealed in 99.8% of more than 6,848 urine samples from those living in France, hinting that the chemical has become present in the bodies of the entire population of one of Europe’s most populous nations, if not the entire continent.
The highest concentrations were found in men, younger people and not surprisingly, farmers, who make widespread use of herbicides.
The Debate Over Safety
Weedkillers that have glyphosate as their chief active ingredient are popular in U.S. agriculture. It is popular, too, with backyard home gardeners. But glyphosate’s possible hazards have been debated for years, especially after it was labeled a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, in 2015.
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $66 billion in 2016, says there is no evidence to support it being carcinogenic.
“Bayer stands fully behind our glyphosate-based products, which have been used safely and successfully around the world for more than 40 years,” the company said in a statement to SurvivorNet. “Leading health regulators around the world have repeatedly concluded that our glyphosate-based products can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.”
Besides the EPA’s findings, spokeswoman Susan Luke also noted that the European Chemicals Agency stood by its previous position in May that glyphosate-based herbicides should not be classified as carcinogenic, though it held them to be hazardous to fish and can cause eye damage.
In addition to the U.S. EPA, the European Food Safety Authority deemed glyphosate to be safe and not a likely carcinogen.
For Bayer, it’s a matter of exposure. It says CDC data show that the highest levels of glyphosate found in the urine samples correspond to exposure to the chemical that is far below the EPA’s safety threshold.
“Too much exposure to virtually any substance can be harmful to human health, so it is widely agreed across the public health community that safety assessments must take into account actual exposure common to the human population,” Luke said of Bayer’s position in an email. She added that weedkillers have been among the most thoroughly studied products on the market.
Cancer isn’t the only risk that has been cited by critics when it comes to glyphosate. Some studies have examined whether there is a link between glyphosate exposure and damage to the DNA in human cells.
About Non-Hodgkin lymphona
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 4% of all cancers, making it one of the most common, the American Cancer Society reports.
This year, it predicts about 44,000 men and boys and 36,350 women and girls will be diagnosed with it. For more than 20,000, the disease will be fatal.
Though it can occur at any age, non-Hodgkin lymphoma strikes older people the hardest. There are a number of other risk factors, of which chemical exposure is only one. They include family history, radiation exposure, weakened immune systems, inflections and autoimmune illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
For more than 20,000 Americans this year, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is expected to be fatal.