Studies Linking Roundup and Cancer
Because the United States federal government has never regulated Roundup, there is limited federal empirical research into the chemical’s effects on people, animals, and the environment. One of the early studies that linked Roundup to adverse health conditions was published in 2003. Researchers studied close to 3,500 farmers living in the Midwest during the 1980’s who routinely worked with glyphosate. They concluded that these farmers suffered a higher rate of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma than the general population.
But the issue really came to the fore in 2015 when the IARC declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic in humans.” The basis for this finding was twofold. First, a number of animal studies (mainly studies conducted on mice and rats) showed a link between cancerous tumors and the active ingredient in Roundup. Second, scientists who applied glyphosate to human cells in a lab setting found that it damaged human DNA. IARC researchers found traces of glyphosate in the urine and blood of farmers who were tested, and corroborated earlier studies that showed a link between the chemical and higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In the most recent legal proceedings to determine whether expert testimony would be helpful in the Monsanto trial, the Plaintiff’s expert and Monsanto’s expert butted heads over a 2017 study that concluded Roundup was safe. Plaintiff’s expert, Beate Ritz, an epidemiologist from the University of California, Los Angeles, testified that prior studies and literature lead her to conclude that Roundup can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to Ritz, the 2017 study had “major flaws” in its methodology. Monsanto’s expert, Lorelei Mucci, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, praised the study, concluding that there is no correlation between Roundup and cancer. Both experts will eventually present their testimony to a jury at trial.
Why Isn’t Roundup Regulated?
Despite these findings, the EPA and its European equivalent both maintain that glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic—and thus do not regulate it. However, because states are free to regulate more stringently than federal law, the state of California lists glyphosate as a “known carcinogen.” California is the most agriculturally productive state in the U.S. Now, as of 2018, the EPA is currently investigating whether it should change its stance on Roundup and begin to regulate use of the chemical. In December of 2017, the EPA reported that glyphosate is “not likely” to be carcinogenic in humans, but that further study is needed.
What Are the Risks of Glyphosate Exposure?
In addition to the link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, recent studies have found that glyphosate exposure may cause a number of other health conditions, including liver damage, kidney damage, and disruption to the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates hormones. The possible disruption to the endocrine system is thought to be related to the higher incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in people who are exposed to Roundup.
Some other symptoms people who use Roundup may experience include burning eyes, itchy eyes, and a runny, burning or itchy nose. It is recommended that people wash their hands and change their clothes after using Roundup.