CDC report: More research needed on health risks from weedkiller glyphosate

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Spraying in a field along US 130 just north of Unite East Elementary School in Champaign County on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

A new federal review of the health impacts of glyphosate, a weed-killer known more commonly as RoundUp, acknowledge that while more research was needed – it could not rule out a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The toxicological review of glyphosate released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded, in most cases, studies show little connection between low-levels of glyphosate exposure and major health risks.

“Numerous agencies have evaluated glyphosate for possible associations between exposure and risk of various cancers,” said the report. “The results of these studies should be interpreted cautiously given the lack of quantitative or semiquantitative glyphosate exposure information and the likely exposure to other pesticides. However, a possible association between exposure to glyphosate and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma could not be ruled out, based on conflicting results.”

The report, compiled by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, is an analysis of 64 studies, conducted on both animals and humans. Its purpose is to determine the health effects of exposure to glyphosate, as well as identify the need for more research. It breaks down possible health effects, including the chemical’s association with heart and lungs problems, renal function, human reproduction, cancer and even death.

The CDC also said that many of the human studies relied on self-reporting, which has limitations.

Charla Lord, spokesperson for Bayer, said that nearly all the studies the CDC reviewed concluded the chemical does not cause cancer.

“The report contains a summary of eight international agency assessments of carcinogenicity that, with the one exception of IARC, conclude that glyphosate is not carcinogenic,” Lord said in an email. “Regulators around the world who have reviewed the extensive science on glyphosate continue to conclude that it is safe for use and is not carcinogenic.”

A school groundskeeper was awarded $289 million last August in a suit against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, after a jury concluded the man’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma was likely connected to his continued exposure to glyphosate. Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, is appealing the decision. There are still around 8,000 pending lawsuits against the company over glyphosate.

Glyphosate is also manufactured by BASF, Corteva Agriscience (formerly DowDupont) and Syngenta.

More research needed

The report found that, in many areas, more research is needed to fully understand how glyphosate may be impacting the health of people who apply the product in residential and agricultural settings, as well as people who may not come in direct contact with the chemical.

“Studies are needed to investigate human intake of glyphosate via food and water, such as total diet studies. Up until 2016–2017, the FDA did not test for glyphosate residues in food sources,” stated the report.

It said most people will only be exposed to glyphosate through residue in food. Animal studies showed that the chemical was only toxic when the animal swallowed levels much higher than what the FDA allows in food residue.

“Humans should continue to be monitored for possible associations between glyphosate intake from food sources and adverse health outcomes,” said the report. “Additional studies should be designed to further assess potential for glyphosate to persist in foods, water, and soil.”

Lord said Bayer’s scientists are reviewing the report and plan to comment during the 90-day public comment period. Comments can be submitted through July 8, 2019.

“We welcome this scientific review of glyphosate, the active ingredient in many of our Roundup-branded products,” said Lord.

Bayer has recently made public more than 100 studies it has conducted on the safety of glyphosate.