On March 20, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a statement saying that the herbicide glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Roundup, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
This statement sparked concerns among consumers and consumer-advocacy groups who’ve questioned why manufacturer Monsanto has not alert users of this serious potential risk on the product label. Even today, the label does not warn of this risk.
On July 7, 2017, the California state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) named glyphosate as a chemical that can cause cancer. It also added the ingredient to the list of cancer-causing chemicals, which will require Monsanto to add new warnings to their label for products sold in California. Monsanto sued the OEHHA in 2016 when they first tried to put the chemical on OEHHA’s Proposition 65 list, which identifies chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The company lost that case, but they have appealed.
Meanwhile, hundreds of plaintiffs have filed Roundup cancer lawsuits against Monsanto, claiming that the product is defectively designed and the manufacturer’s failure to warn of its risks. The litigation has grown substantially over the last several months, prompting the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on October 3, 2016, to consolidate all federally-filed cases into the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California for pre-trial proceedings.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds and grasses. The herbicide is frequently used on crops, commercial nurseries, lawns, sidewalks, parks, golf courses, and driveways. Monsanto has created a large selection of genetically modified seeds designed to resist glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray the herbicide over crops without harming them.
When glyphosate is sprayed on plants, they absorb it through the leaves, stems, and roots.
Glyphosate inhibits a specific enzyme in certain plants called “5-enolpyruvyl-shikimic acid-3 phosphate synthase, also called “EPSP synthase.” In plants that contain this enzyme, the herbicide interferes with the plant’s metabolism, resulting in a buildup of shikimic acid, which kills the plant.
What is Roundup?
Roundup was first released on the market in 1974, and today is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. Each year, about 250 million pounds of the product is sprayed on crops, nurseries, and other areas. Use of the herbicide has increased with the development of seeds that can resist glyphosate.
As of 2009, Monsanto was the world’s leading producer of seeds designed to be “RoundUp Ready,” meaning they are resistant to damage from glyphosate. In 2010, an estimated 70 percent of corn and cotton, and 90 percent of soybean fields in the U.S. contained glyphosate-resistant crops.
Roundup and Cancer—the Evidence
Plaintiffs filing Roundup cancer lawsuits claim that manufacturer Monsanto was aware of the potential cancer risk associated with their product as early as the 1980s. In 1985, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Toxicology Branch classified glyphosate as a “Category C” oncogene, which meant that it was a possible human carcinogen. In 1986, the EPA required additional toxicology tests on the product because of these concerns.
But then in 1991, the EPA changed that classification to “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans (Group E).” This change occurred after the EPA re-evaluated animal studies that evaluated the effects of exposure to the pesticide. It noted, however, that the new designation was “based on available evidence” and that it “should not be interpreted as a definitive conclusion that the agent will not be a carcinogen under any circumstances.”
Studies since then have shown a connection between glyphosate and cancer:
- 1999: Researchers studied the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in northern and middle Sweden and found that subjects exposed to herbicides like glyphosate had an increased risk of NHL.
- 2003: Researchers studied over 3,400 farmers exposed to various herbicides. They found that reported use of many of them—including glyphosate—was associated with an increased incidence of NHL.
- 2005: Researchers evaluate associations between glyphosate exposure and cancer in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) which included over 57,000 pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina. Researchers found no link for most types of cancers but did find a suggested association between the chemical and multiple myeloma.
- 2008: Researchers studied participants exposed to glyphosate and found a significant association between the herbicide and NHL.
- 2014: A study review of nearly three decades of research on the relationship between NHL and occupational exposure to pesticide active ingredients showed that pesticides like glyphosate were associated with a higher incidence of NHL.
In March 2015, the IARC announced their new classification of glyphosate, stating there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” They based their decision on studies of human exposure, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden, as well as on evidence from animal studies showing that glyphosate caused cancer and tumors in mice.
The IARC also noted several more recent positive results in animal studies, which provided a basis to part from the EPA’s classification. The IARC explained that there was “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity” in experimental animals.
The IARC is the specialized intergovernmental cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). Once the IARC released its new classification, the WHO initially appeared to be in agreement. But then in May 2016, The United Nations (UN) and the WHO released a new report in which they concluded that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”
The findings seemed contradictory, but according to an article from The Royal Society of Chemistry, the two reports were different:
- The IARC report identified potential cancer hazards but didn’t estimate the level of risk to the population associated with exposure to the hazard.
- The UN/WHO report assessed the level of health risk to consumers associated with dietary exposure to pesticide residues in food.
Indeed, farmers and other related professionals who are applying large amounts of the pesticide to crops, golf courses, and parks are exposed to the most dangerous levels of glyphosate. The UN/WHO report, however, looked only at humans exposed through their diet.
Currently, the EPA states on its website that glyphosate has “low toxicity for humans,” but adds that the chemical and its related acid and salt compounds are “currently undergoing registration review, a program that re-evaluates all pesticides on a 15-year cycle.”
In March 2017, the EPA noted that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) met in December 2016 “to consider a set of scientific issues being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate.” The agency stated it would review the findings of the panel before making a final determination regarding the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.
In addition to the concerns about glyphosate, there are also concerns about other ingredients in Roundup that may exacerbate the herbicide’s potentially harmful health effects. The product contains POEA (polyoxyethylene tallow amine), for example, a surfactant with known toxic effects on aquatic organisms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is currently investigating this ingredient and its possible effects on the environment when used in herbicide applications. There is some evidence that POEA may make Roundup even more toxic.
Despite this evidence, Monsanto maintains that glyphosate and Roundup are safe and non-carcinogenic.
Types of Injuries Associated with RoundUp
Farmers and pesticide applicators who are exposed to glyphosate in Roundup may be at risk for:
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- B-cell lymphoma
Those groups most at risk include:
- Those with workplace exposure to glyphosate and/or Roundup
- Employees of garden centers and nurseries
RoundUp Cancer Lawsuits
Hundreds of plaintiffs have filed Roundup cancer lawsuits against Monsanto. In July 2017, for example, an Arkansas man filed a new case in The Western District of Arkansas. He claimed that he began using Roundup in the 1980s during his employment with the Arkansas Highway Department. For nearly 20 years he regularly sprayed the herbicide. According to the complaint, in 2009, he was diagnosed with NHL. He blames his Roundup exposure for his development of cancer.
Many other plaintiffs, including field workers, coffee growers, and others have filed similar lawsuits. There is also at least one class action lawsuit filed in California, with plaintiffs claiming the defendants engaged in false and misleading advertising.
The litigation continues to grow since it was consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. If you or a loved one was exposed to Roundup and then received a cancer diagnosis, you may be eligible to file a Roundup cancer lawsuit. Chaffin Luhana is now investigating these cases and invites you to call today at 1-888-480-1123.