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As public concern continues to mount over the potential health risks from Roundup exposure, including reports of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers, a new study suggests that side effects of the widely used weed killer may also increase the risk of liver disease.
In a study published in the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, researchers from the University of California San Diego found evidence that the herbicide glyphosate contained in Roundup has a negative impact on the human liver. Previous studies have only seen this effect in animal testing.
The research involved an examination of urine samples from 93 patients, who also underwent liver biopsies to determine whether they had liver disease. The patients were part of a larger liver disease study conducted between 2012 and 2018.
According to the findings, patients with a type of liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis were significantly more likely to carry higher levels of glyphosate residue in their urine, which signifies exposure to the weedkiller. The researchers noted that the prevalence of this type of kidney disease in the U.S. has risen over the past 25 years, as has the use of Roundup.
The association between Roundup and liver disease is observational, according to the researchers, who noted that these findings do not establish a causal link, which will require additional studies.
“The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup treated crops into our diet,” lead researcher Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the university, said in a May 14 press release. “There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to. We measured just one.”
Mills indicates that he next plans to test a group of patients eating an all-organic diet and test their livers for biomarkers of liver disease, to see the effects of an herbicide-free diet.
Roundup Exposure Health Risks
The study’s findings come as most attention has been focused on the possible link between Roundup and various forms of cancer, primarily non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bayer and its recently-acquired Monsanto subsidiary face more than 15,000 Roundup lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide, each raising similar allegations that users of the weedkiller developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma following repeated exposure.
State and federal courts in California have held three trials over the last year, to determine whether the companies were liable for plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Bayer and Monsanto have lost all three.
A second trial was held in federal court earlier this year, resulting in a verdict of $80 million, despite a format that was widely thought to heavily favor the manufacturer.
Finally, a third trial concluded earlier this month with a landmark $2 billion verdict in California state court, after considering evidence in a lawsuit brought by a husband and wife who were each diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following use of Roundup.
In the federal court system, all claims are currently centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). However, most of the cases are filed in state courts nationwide.
Judge Chhabria has ordered the parties into mediation to see if a Roundup settlement agreement can be reached. However, the manufacturer still does not provide consumers with warnings about the health risks from Roundup exposure, leading some analysts to question the extent of liability Bayer may face in future claims.