Studies have shown a link between exposure to the chemical glyphosate, the main ingredient in the common herbicide Roundup, and several cancers, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers.
Roundup, a product sold by Bayer AG (formerly Monsanto), is the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. and most of the world. In the U.S. alone, hundreds of products contain glyphosate, including:
- Ortho GroundClear
- RM43 Total Vegetation Control
- Compare-N-Save Concentrate Grass and Weed Killer
- Dow Rodeo Herbicide
Roundup health risks
Glyphosate-containing Roundup was first sold commercially in 1974 by Monsanto, which was purchased by Bayer AG in 2018. Because glyphosate controls weeds by inhibiting a plant enzyme that doesn’t exist in humans, both companies have maintained for years that their product was safe for human use.
However, glyphosate exposure has been linked to chromosomal and DNA damage in humans, in addition to lymphoma and other types of hematopoietic (blood-cell related) cancer in recent years. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a potentially fatal type of cancer that affects the immune system by stimulating excessive production of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
Glyphosate research and regulation
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), labeled glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015, and California listed it as a “cancer-causing chemical” in 2017.
- A study by the University of Washington published in 2019 examined the relationship between exposure to glyphosate and the onset of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reported that agricultural professionals who were highly exposed had a 41% greater chance of contracting the disease.
- Many U.S. jurisdictions have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate and more than 25 countries have passed similar regulations.
As part of discovery in a court case, internal Monsanto emails from 2003 were made public that indicated the company was investigating links between Roundup and cancer but failed to warn consumers. In one correspondence, a Monsanto toxicologist explained to a colleague that “you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen…we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”
Public awareness of the health risks associated with glyphosate arose in 2019 after a federal jury in California awarded $80 million to a 70-year-old man who developed cancer after using Roundup for three decades on his farm. The jury determined that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in his cancer diagnosis.
Also in 2019, a California jury awarded a $2 billion verdict to a couple claiming to have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after decades of using Roundup. That judgment was appealed and the damages reduced to a total of $87 million, which was also appealed. However, the appellate court upheld the judgment, finding sufficient evidence in the lower court to prove that “Monsanto’s intransigent unwillingness to inform the public about the carcinogenic dangers of a product it made abundantly available at hardware stores and garden shops across the country.”
To date, Monsanto and Bayer have settled over 96,000 Roundup cases, and in 2021, a federal judge rejected a proposed plan by Bayer to establish a $10 billion fund to settle cancer suits related to the product and limit future claims.
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If you or a loved one have been harmed by exposure to Roundup, you may be able to file a claim.