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Farmers, landscape maintenance workers, and homeowners often rely on weed killers, such as popular brand Roundup®, for weed control around crops and in lawns and gardens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has stated, however, that Roundup’s active chemical ingredient, glyphosate, could be linked to blood cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a form of life-threatening cancer affecting white blood cells.
While Roundup manufacturer, Mansanto Company, has maintained that glyphosate is safe for use, the allegations have fueled multi-district litigation involving dozens of plaintiffs who claim to have developed cancer caused by its products.
Roundup side effects
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can manifest anywhere in the body, including the abdomen, chest, brain and skin. NHL symptoms can be debilitating, and include, but are not limited to:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Low red blood cell counts
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath or cough
- Swollen abdomen
- Weight loss
Roundup’s alleged link to cancer
Monsanto first patented glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer products, in the early 1970s and it’s since grown into one of the most widely used herbicides on the market.
Roughly 75 percent of all glyphosate sprayed on crops in that time occurred within the last 10 years, according to a report published in 2016 by Environmental Sciences Europe. The uptick in worldwide use can largely be attributed to the onset of genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant seeds developed by Monsanto and other seed companies and first marketed in 1996 to farmers as a safeguard to enable crops to better withstand glyphosate.
Glyphosate’s safety has been called into question for decades, including a study that found the chemical could cause tumorous cancers in laboratory animals. In 1985 the EPA labeled glyphosate as being possibly carcinogenic to humans, but the agency re-evaluated and overturned that ruling in 1991, claiming it found no evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), however, classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 2015 after reviewing studies that determined the chemical caused DNA and chromosomal damage to human cells, including in community residents who suffered blood markers of chromosomal damage after glyphosate was sprayed near their homes.
After analyzing 44 research studies, including complaints of possible links between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, IARC scientists concluded that people exposed to Roundup had up to double the risk of developing the cancer — an allegation Monsanto has staunchly denied. Emails also surfaced in March 2017 suggesting that Monsanto “ghost-wrote” one paper related to glyphosate’s safety. Read the emails.
Calls for a ban
Word of glyphosate’s possible carcinogenic properties prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to announce on Nov. 27, 2017 that he’s instructed the French government to find alternatives for the chemical in preparation for a ban he hopes to implement within the next three years. Macron made the announcement after the European Union agreed to extend Monsanto’s authorization to sell glyphosate in Europe for another five years — down from the 15-year license typically granted for such chemicals.
While the U.S. has not yet made similar calls for a ban, California added glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals in July 2017.