Study Finds Active Ingredient From Roundup Weed Killers in Human Sperm

Researchers warn that glyphosate in Roundup could deteriorate the blood testes barrier, potentially contributing to infertility or causing DNA damage that could be passed to children.

New research suggests that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and similar herbicides, is present in human sperm at levels higher than what is typically found in blood, raising concerns about the potential threat the widely used weed killer may pose to human reproduction.

In findings published last week in the medical journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, French researchers warn that glyphosate from Roundup could deteriorate the human blood testes barrier, and have potentially toxic side effects that could be passed down to men’s children.

Roundup has been widely used for decades in the agricultural industry, as well as for residential purposes as a weed killer, containing glyphosate as the active ingredient. Although it has been marketed as safe for humans, there is now growing research highlighting serious health concerns for users.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate as a probable cancer-causing agent. Since then, a number of restrictions have been imposed on Roundup use in various parts of the world, due to concerns of an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers linked to the weed killer’s use.

As a result of the failure to warn about the potential side effects of glyphosate, Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary have faced more than 120,000 Roundup lawsuits over the past decade, each raising similar allegations that users developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from the weed killer, either when using the product in an agricultural setting or around the home.

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In this latest study, researchers led by Claudine Vasseur, of France’s Centre de Fertilité, looked at data on 128 male partners of infertile couples between the ages of 26 and 57. The men had no physical abnormalities or chronic illnesses.

Researchers collected blood and semen samples, then tested them for the presence of glyphosate. An analysis of the samples revealed that glyphosate was present in the semen and blood plasma of 73 out of the 128 men tested. The researchers noted that these men came from an area known as the “bread basket” of France, where Roundup is heavily utilized.

The study presents the first findings that confirm the presence of glyphosate in human sperm, indicating that levels of the weed killer were generally four times higher in seminal plasma than in blood plasma. Researchers also found a correlation between the amount of glyphosate detected, meaning that the higher the level of glyphosate in blood plasma was a key indicator of higher levels in semen.

The researchers indicated that a potential reason could be that glyphosate disrupts the blood testis barrier, which has been observed previously in rat test subjects. They warn that the presence of glyphosate in seminal plasma appears to be linked to an increase in oxidative stress, which could contribute to infertility, damage to DNA in the sperm, and could cause health problems in the men’s offspring.

“Taken together, our results suggest a negative impact of (glyphosate) on the human reproductive health and possibly on his progeny,” Vasseur concluded. “A precaution principle should be applied at the time of the actual discussion of (glyphosate) and GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicide) formulants uses in Europe by the authorities.”

June 2024 Roundup Lawsuit Update

Although Bayer and it’s Monsanto unit have paid more than $10 billion in Roundup settlements for failing to warn about the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the manufacturers continue face about 50,000 lawsuits throughout the U.S. court system, and new claims continue to be filed as former users of the weed killer develop the blood cancer.

In the federal court system, the Roundup litigation is currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, where several large waves of claims are being prepared for remand to different federal district court for trial. However, most of the U.S. litigation is pending in state courts, including Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California, where a series of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma lawsuits are already scheduled to go before juries in the coming months.

Although Bayer continues to defend the safety of glyphosate, the company has failed to establish that it can consistently defend the safety of the herbicide at trial, suffering a string of massive losses in state court trials over the past year, including the largest Roundup lawsuit verdict to date, $2.2 billion, handed down by a Pennsylvania state court jury in January. It was later reduced to $400 million. That verdict was preceded by a $1.5 billion verdict in November 2023, and a slew of others plaintiff victories last year.

To limit liability from the Roundup failure to warn lawsuits, Bayer has announced that it will remove the active ingredient glyphosate from consumer products, while keeping the formulation for large agricultural users. However, it is still expected that Bayer will continue to face a steady stream of trials for years to come.

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