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Over the past two decades, California residents have experienced a dramatic increase in their level of exposure to Roundup, as serious concerns have emerged about health risks that may be associated with the weed killer’s active ingredient, glyphosate.
In a letter published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), rsearchers with the University of California in San Diego warn that they measured a 1,000% increase in the levels of glyphosate excreted by older adults in California between 1993 and 2016.
The findings come as California cracks down on use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, following recent warnings by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which determined in March 2015 that glyphosate is a possible carcinogen.
In this latest study, researchers looked at data on 100 southern Californians over the age of 50, and found that the mean glyphosate level in their secretions had increased roughly 1,000%. Not only had detectable levels spread from about 12 people to about 70 people, but the levels had also increased from 0.024 parts per billion in 1993 to 1996, to 0.314 parts per billion by the 2014-2016 samples.
Researchers note that the increase appears right about the time that genetically modified plants were introduced that are designed to be “Roundup Ready”, meaning the weed killer could be heavily used without damaging the crop.
“Use of this herbicide has increased since 1994 when genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States,” the researchers warned. “Environmental exposure through dietary intake of these crops has potential adverse health effects and can be assessed by measuring urinary excretion.”
The study comes just a few months after California deemed glyphosate to be a cancer-causing agent that requires additional warning labels and restrictions.
On July 7, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added glyphosate to its list of cancer causing agents, known as the Proposition 65 list. The move means that Monsanto will have to include a Roundup cancel label on all products sold in the state by July 2018, alerting consumers that the popular herbicide may be carcinogenic.
Although Monsanto has continued to defend the safety of their blockbuster weed killer, calling the IARC findings junk science, experts worldwide have joined the debate over the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides, raising questions about why Monsanto marketed Roundup as safe and non-toxic, without providing warnings about the importance of safety precautions.
Across the U.S., Monsanto currently faces hundreds of Roundup lawsuits filed on behalf of farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and others regularly exposed to the weed killer, which allege that they may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancer if warnings had been provided.
Since October 2016, the federal cases have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.
As part of the coordinated litigation, it is expected that a small group of bellwether trials will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases. However, if Monsanto fails to reach Roundup settlements or another resolution for the failure to warn cases, hundreds of individual lawsuits may eventually be remanded back to the federal courts where they were originally filed for an separate trial dates.