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Monsanto faces two new lawsuits brought on behalf of agricultural workers who allege that they developed cancer from Roundup, with one case involving a man diagnosed with bone cancer and the other involving a woman diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) after exposure to the controversial weed killer.
Both cases were brought on September 22, with one filed by Enrique Rubio in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California and the other brought by Judi Fitzgerald in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Similar allegations are raised in each of the Roundup cancer lawsuits, claiming that Monsanto failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks associated with heavy exposure to glyphosate contained in the weed and grass killer.
Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides, which was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s. However, concerns have emerged in recent months about the potential link between Roundup and cancer, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a warning in March about the potential human health side effects of glyphosate.
According to the complaint (PDF) filed by Rubio, the Colorado man worked at farms in Oregon, California and Texas from 1986 to 1995, where he sprayed Roundup on vegetable crops, such as strawberries and cucumbers, twice a week using a hand pump sprayer. Because he was unaware of the potential cancer risk with Roundup, Rubio indicates that his only protection was a paper face mask.
In 1995, Rubio was diagnosed with bone cancer, which he alleges was caused by Roundup exposure. As a result of the cancer diagnosis, Rubio indicates that he has had to stop working and subsist off of government benefits. The 58 year-old man claims that he was unaware of Roundup’s link to cancer until the IARC evaluation earlier this year.
Fitzgerald, 64, worked as a Growers Assistant for a New York company from 1994 to 1998, according to her complaint (PDF), where she was in close proximity to plants being sprayed with Roundup both in a greenhouse and in fields.
“While Mrs. Fitzgerald did not personally apply Roundup, she was frequently within several feet of the area where Roundup was being sprayed,” the lawsuit notes. “On at least several occasions, Mrs. Fitzgerald became ill within hours of being in the vicinity of the spraying of Roundup.”
In 2012, Fitzgerald was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), which is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow and then goes into the blood. It is common for individuals to exhibit no symptoms of the cancer for several years, during which time the cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver and spleen.
The lawsuits claim that not only is glyphosate a carcinogen, but also claim that Monsanto knew the herbicide was unsafe for years, pointing out that as early as 1996, the company came under fire by the New York Attorney General’s office, which sued the company for making false and misleading claims about Roundup’s safety. The company claimed in advertisments that Roundup was “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic” to animals. The New York AG’s office forced the company to enter into an Assurance of Discontinuance agreement in November 1996 to stop making such claims.
Roundup Cancer Risk
In March 2015, the IARC determined that the herbicide glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans, indicating that it may cause several types of cancer. The designation has raised questions about the safety of Roundup.
Monsanto has said that the IARC’s conclusions were agenda-driven and based on “junk science,” and has said it is convening its own independent panel to review the cancer risks of Roundup, which is the most widely used weed killer in the world.
Consumer use of Roundup began to skyrocket in the mid 1990s, after Monsanto introduced genetically engineered crops to withstand treatment with Roundup, killing the weeds and not the crops. Genetically modified crops, like corn and soybean, are branded as being “Roundup Ready.” Some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, thus forcing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated agricultural use of glyphosate increased drastically from 110 million pounds in 2002, now to more than 283 million pounds in 2012.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in April that it plans to address the safety concerns of glyphosate during the regular EPA safety review hearing occurring soon. Researchers warn pesticides are commonly detected in the air, food and water near areas that have been sprayed.