Several studies have suggested that Roundup and its main herbicide, glyphosate, may increase the risk of certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Other agencies have reached conclusions that are at odds with the IARC’s findings, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which states on its website that glyphosate has “low toxicity for humans.” A recent study published in the scientific journal JAMA, however, raises new concerns about how much glyphosate is making its way into our bodies, where it may do serious harm.
Study Shows Levels of Glyphosate in Urine Samples Increasing
For the study, researchers looked at data from 100 participants who were involved in the Rancho Bernardo Study (RBS) of Healthy Aging. The participants gave routine urinary specimens between 1993-1996 and 2014-2016. The researchers analyzed the specimens to determine their glyphosate concentrations using high-performance liquid chromatography.
The results showed that the mean level of glyphosate found in the urine specimens increased over time in the 70 participants with glyphosate levels above the detectable limits:
- from 0.024 ug/L in 1993-1996;
- to 0.314 ug/L in 2014-2016; and
- to 0.449 ug/L in 2014-2016.
The levels of glyphosate’s metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) also increased over time in in the 71 participants with AMPA levels above the detectable limits
- from 0.008 ug/L in 1993-1996;
- to 0.285 ug/L in 2014-2016; and
- to 0.401 ug/L in 2014-2016.
The prevalence of samples that had glyphosate over the limits of detection also increased significantly from 0.120 in 1993-1996 to 0.700 in 2014-2016, and the prevalence of samples with AMPA over the limits of detection increased from 0.050 in 1993-1996 to 0.710 in 2014-2016.
Study Shows Significant Jump in Glyphosate Exposure with GM Crops
In a UC San Diego Health press release related to the study, researchers noted that use of the herbicide has increased about 15-fold since 1994, when modified “Roundup-Ready” crops were introduced that could resist the herbicide. They added that human exposure to glyphosate “has increased approximately 500 percent since the introduction of genetically modified crops.” Paul J. Mills, the lead author of the study, stated that “[o]ur exposure to these chemicals has increased significantly over the years, but most people are unaware that they are consuming them through their diet.”
Mills also noted that prior to the introduction of genetically modified crops, “very few people had detectable levels of glyphosate,” but that increased substantially over the period of about two decades. He called for more studies on the herbicide and its effect on human health. “The public needs to be better informed of the potential risks….”
Hundreds of Roundup Lawsuits Filed Against Monsanto
In July 2017, the California state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) named glyphosate as a chemical that can cause cancer. Manufacturer Monsanto sued in 2016 when the OEHHA first tried to put the chemical on California’s list and lost, but they have appealed.
The company faces hundreds of Roundup lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who claim to have used the product and then developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or another similar type of cancer.