Roundup Exposure May Cause Cancer Through Other Ingredients Besides Glyphosate: Report

A new report suggests that “inert” substances and rarely-studied chemicals may be contributing to the risk of cancer from Roundup exposure, indicating that the popular weed killer may cause cancer due to a combination of chemicals, and not just due to its active ingredient, glyphosate. 

The Intercept published an investigative report on May 17, highlighting several chemicals in Roundup that may be part of the problem with the widely used herbicide, which is used on farms, parks, golf courses and other land worldwide. These chemicals have largely avoided public scrutiny in the U.S., but are beginning to raise concerns in Europe.

In March 2015, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that the glyphosate is likely a cancer-causing agent. The warning has resulted in increasing concerns worldwide about the potential link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other forms of cancer.

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Monsanto has aggressively criticized the decision to list the active ingredient in Roundup as a human carcinogen, dismissing the IARC findings as agenda driven and based on “junk science.” However, many within the scientific community have stood behind the findings, pushing for bans or severe limitations on the use of Roundup.

According to the new report by The Intercept, the discrepancies in science may come from some researchers looking at glyphosate alone, and others looking at formulations of Roundup that contain other chemicals that may contribute to the risk of cancer.

In February, a study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health which looked at the risk of endocrine disruption caused by glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH).

“It was demonstrated for the first time that endocrine disruption by GBH could not only be due to the declared active ingredient but also to co-formulants,” French researchers concluded. “These results could explain numerous in vivo results with GBHs not seen with (glyphosate) alone…”

The same factor could be at play in whether Roundup exposure increases the risk of cancer, the Intercept story theorizes.

Many of the co-formulants have been basically hidden from view and scrutiny under corporate trade secret laws. However, a number of chemicals used in Roundup are now coming under closer scrutiny.

Studies in 2005 and 2009 indicated that Roundup was more toxic than glyphosate alone, however, the researchers were unable to determine what those chemicals might be, as Monsanto and other herbicide manufacturers are only required to release the chemical structure of their active ingredients, and can keep so-called “inert” chemical structures secret.

One of the chemicals that is known is polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), used in Roundup Classic and Roundup Original. It helps the herbicide get through a plant’s waxy surface.

After a forest worker suffered toxic lung inflammation due to POEA exposure, Germany banned all herbicides containing POEA in 2014. France began the process of banning herbicides that combine glyphosate and POEA in April, and European regulators are reportedly considering making a POEA ban part of glyphosate’s relicensing requirements.

Monsanto has said that it is preparing to phase the chemical out of all of its products for commercial reasons, but maintains that POEA is safe.

As more information is learned by the public about the problems with the weedkiller, a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits in courts throughout 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 plaintiffs may have avoided a cancer diagnosis 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.


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