A recent wave of plaintiff victories in California trials has brought the safety of the herbicide Roundup into the spotlight of public scrutiny. While its manufacturer, Bayer AG, claims the product is safe, three juries have thought otherwise after being presented with a trove of evidence from both sides of the debate. The plaintiffs claim the active ingredient in Roundup is a human carcinogen that can cause a form of blood cancer after exposure from just a couple of applications. Bayer AG points to government reports assuring the public that Roundup is a safe product that does not cause cancer. Below is a summary of where the litigation stands today and how it got here.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the most popular herbicide in the world, Roundup. Roundup was introduced to the herbicide market in the 1970s by Monsanto, which was recently purchased by Bayer AG.
How does Glyphosate Cause Cancer?
Recent studies have found a connection between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the blood. NHL starts in the body’s white blood cells and affects the lymphatic system, which helps fight infections, diseases, and moves fluids throughout the body. Lymphomas can be found anywhere in the body where there is lymph tissue such as:
- Lymph nodes
- Bone Marrow
- Adenoids and tonsils
- Digestive track
What Have The Studies Found?
A 2019 study published in Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research analyzed the impact of glyphosate exposure on mice. The researchers found increased rates of malignant lymphoma, immunosuppression, endocrine disruption, and genetic alterations commonly associated with NHL or lymphomagenesis.
The study used a meta-analysis which included the most recent update of Agricultural Health Study (AHS) published in 2018 in addition to five case-control studies that have shown a meta-relative risk of NHL in glyphosate-based herbicide exposed individuals of 41%. In other words, the case control studies concluded that those with the highest exposure to glyphosate had a 41 percent increase in risk of developing NHL.
This study comes after a 2015 report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that classified glyphosate as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The IARC report states that glyphosate can cause NHL by altering DNA and causing chromosomal damage in human cells, specifically by altering protein expression.
What are Experts Saying?
Pathologist Dr. Dennis Weisenburger testified at two of the three Roundup trials that using Roundup more than two days per year doubles the risk of developing NHL. His research focuses on a correlation between counties with high rates of NHL and large concentrations of crops sprayed with glyphosate-based products.
Toxicology expert Dr. William Sawyer testified at a California trial that Monsanto made glyphosate up to 50 times more toxic by selling Roundup that contained a surfactant called polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA). Dr. Sawyer claimed that POEA allows glyphosate to easily penetrate the skin, and the body then stores it under the skin before transferring doses to the bones, where NHL develops.
What is Bayer AG Saying?
Bayer AG maintains that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and that Roundup products are safe. The company relies on a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is partially based on research conducted in 1973 by Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT) that determined that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and poses no risk to human health. The company also cites that the European Chemicals Agency’s study found similar results.
However, plaintiffs claim that the EPA’s report is based off of fraudulent studies, as the EPA itself invalidated the results of the 1973 study after it was discovered that IBT had falsified its data.
The EPA’s relationship with Monsanto (the former manufacturers of Roundup) has also been criticized, especially after a Monsanto email appeared claim that an EPA official would kill a government agency’s review on glyphosate safety, which showed an increased risk of NHL after use of Roundup.
Further, it was uncovered in 2017 that a Monsanto executive had discussed ghost writing a study to combat the IARC report.
What are Juries Doing?
On May 13, 2019, a California jury awarded a couple who contracted NHL after Roundup use $2.055 billion, $2 billion of which represented punitive damages against Bayer AG. The award was the largest plaintiff verdict to date in the Roundup litigation. Plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilloid used Roundup on their properties for decades, leading to extended exposure and both developing rare forms of NHL. Although their cancer is in remission, the Pilloids suffered brain damage and lifelong injuries as a result of their NHL diagnosis.
The Pillioids’ case is the third Roundup case to go to trial over glyphosate allegedly causing NHL. In March 2019, a jury awarded Ed Hardeman $80 million in damages due to his use of Roundup. In August 2018, a San Francisco state court jury awarded groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages after determining that his use of Roundup caused his terminal NHL.
Have I been Exposed to Glyphosate?
According to the 2015 IARC report, glyphosate is the most popular pesticide in the world and its largest use is in agriculture. However, glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban gardening, and home applications. Glyphosate has also been detected in the air during crop spraying and in water and food supplies. The IARC report states that the general population has likely been exposed to low levels glyphosate due to their home being located near sprayed areas, their home use of glyphosate, and diets.
What Should I Do Now?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after using Roundup, contact the Minnesota Cancer Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. With over 30 years of experience fighting corporate negligence, we deliver the Gold standard advocacy you deserve.