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Roundup Linked to Serious Health Effects, Including Cancers and Parkinson's Disease

Jan 16, 2016

Monsanto's Roundup, one of the world's most widely used herbicides, is linked to serious health risks, including cancers and Parkinson's disease.

Roundup has been used for decades by home gardeners and farmers alike. In 2012, for example, Roundup was the top choice of New York City for killing weeds in its parks. The weed killer is crucial in the production of genetically engineered corn and soybeans, the New York Times reports. Glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, has been linked to serious health issues. The chemical has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and has also been shown to cause respiratory distress, impaired consciousness, pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and renal failure, according to a 2004 study in Toxicology Review.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2007 about 185 million pounds were used by farmers in the U.S., double the amount used six years earlier. As weeds become more resistant to Roundup, farmers have increased the amount of herbicide used to counteract resistance. Exposure to the toxic effects of Roundup is seen in agricultural workers, nursery workers, landscape workers, and people who work at farm stands.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015, according to the New York Times. The agency reviewed studies of glyphosate exposure in the United States, Canada, and Sweden since 2001. Glyphosate has been found in food, water, and air following Roundup spraying, according to the report. The IARC recommended that the EPA examine the dangers of glyphosate, but the EPA says it does not have the resources to do so.

Glyphosate exposure has been linked to serious diseases including:

  • Leukemia (multiple myeloma, myeloma)
  • Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin's, Hodgkin's)
  • Parkinson's disease

People exposed to glyphosate may suffer other heath problems:

  • blurred vision with excessive tearing
  • coma
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • hand tremors
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite associated with nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea
  • loss of coordination
  • weakness
  • weight loss

A report that appeared in 2011 in Parkinsonism Related Disorders discussed the case of a 44-year-old woman with Parkinson's symptoms who had three years of glyphosate exposure when she worked in a chemical factory. In 2014 Rodale Wellness reported a large increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases in the last 30 years, and that same year the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a review 44 scientific papers showing the effects of 80 active ingredients in 21 different chemical classes on farm workers. The IARC found that exposure to glyphosate doubled the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

France banned Roundup in 2015 after glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen. Segolene Royal, France's ecology minister, said, "France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides," according to The Independent. In May 2015, residents of a town in the Argentine province Entre Rios demanded action on high cancer death rates. Nearly half the deaths in the town in recent years were caused by cancer, though the Argentina's national average for cancer deaths is18 percent. Residents point to the heavy use of weed killer on rice and soybean fields as a likely cause. Entre Ríos has increased production of rice and soybeans grown with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals sprayed on fields by tractors and crop-dusting planes not only pose a risk to those doing the spraying but they may also drift to nearby areas, exposing residents. There are reports that discarded pesticide canisters have contaminated ground water in some neighborhoods.

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