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Researchers from Argentina warn that the side effects of exposure to Roundup, the world’s most popular weed killer, could affect fertility among women and be an endocrine disruptor that could increase the risk of uterine cancer.
In a study published last month in the medical journal Toxicology, researchers report testing showed that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), such as Roundup, caused structural changes in the uterus of female rats, and disrupted the expression of proteins linked to uterine development.
During the study, researchers exposed young rats to amounts of glyphosate that were similar to the amount of the chemical contained in Roundup that U.S. regulators deem safe to consume every day. However, the study involved injection under the skin instead of oral consumption, which could change how the chemical was distributed through the rat’s bodies.
The findings showed cell proliferation, which could increase the risk of uterine cancer, as well as changes in the structure of the uterus that could affect fertility, suggesting that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.
“Neonatal exposure to GBH disrupts the postnatal uterine development at the neonatal and prepubertal period,” the researchers concluded. “All these changes may alter the functional differentiation of the uterus, affecting the female fertility and/or promoting the development of neoplasias.”
The study comes amid increased concern over the safety of glyphosate, including debate over the link between exposure to Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other cancers.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate is likely a cancer-causing agent, and the EPA is currently conducting a safety review of glyphosate.
The EPA review of Roundup safety risks has come under fire from both sides of the debate over the safety of the weedkiller. A report on the review was due last summer, but is still incomplete. However, in April the EPA accidentally posted what was labeled as a final report on it’s website, indicating that it did not consider glyphosate a carcinogen. The report was quickly taken down, but not before it was widely disseminated.
Monsanto has aggressively defended the safety of Roundup, one of the most import products for the company, criticizing the IARC’s decision and dismissing safety concerns as agenda driven and based on “junk science.”
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also conflicted with the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe.
Amid the continuing debate within the regulatory community, Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits in the United States, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker.
The complaints allege that the manufacturer recklessly promoted Roundup and pushed greater and greater use of the chemical, without disclosing the potential health risks.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.
In all that time, the FDA has never tested for residue or buildup in the food sold to Americans nationwide. In a report published in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for this deficiency in its pesticide program.
The lawsuits over Roundup allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other cancers if they had been warned about the Roundup risks for farmers, landscapers and others in the agricultural industry, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.