‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples | US news

More than 80% of urine samples taken from children and adults in a US health study contained a weed-killing chemical linked to cancer, a finding that scientists called “disturbing” and “concerning”.

The report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unit found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans believed to be representative of the US population, 1,885 contained detectable traces of glyphosate . It is the active ingredient in herbicides sold worldwide, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children between the ages of 6 and 18.

Academics and private researchers have noted high levels of the herbicide glyphosate in analyzes of human urine samples for years. But the CDC only recently began examining the extent of human exposure to glyphosate in the United States, and its work comes at a time of growing concern and controversy over the impact of pesticides in food and water on human and environmental health.

“I expect the realization that most of us have glyphosate in our urine will upset a lot of people,” said Lianne Sheppard, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington. Thanks to the new research, “we know that a large part of the population has it in their urine. Many people will wonder if that includes them.

Sheppard co-authored a 2019 analysis that found exposure to glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and also co-authored a 2019 scientific paper that reviewed 19 studies documenting glyphosate in the human urine.

The amount and prevalence of glyphosate found in human urine has steadily increased since the 1990s, when Monsanto Co. introduced genetically modified crops designed to be sprayed directly with Roundup, according to a study published in 2017. by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. .

Paul Mills, the lead researcher on that study, said at the time that there was an “urgent need” for a thorough examination of the human health impact of glyphosate in the foods people commonly eat.

More than 200 million pounds of glyphosate are used by American farmers in their fields each year. Weedkiller is sprayed directly on GM crops such as corn and soybeans, as well as non-GM crops such as wheat and oats as a desiccant to dry crops before harvest. Many farmers also use it in the fields before the growing season, including spinach growers and almond growers. It is considered the most widely used herbicide in history.

Glyphosate residues have been documented in a range of popular foods prepared with glyphosate-sprayed crops, including baby foods. The main route of exposure for children is food.


Monsanto and the company that bought it in 2018, Bayer, have argued that glyphosate and Roundup products are safe and that residues in food and human urine do not pose a health risk.

They disagree with many researchers and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, which classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the opposite position, classifying glyphosate as not likely to cause cancer. But last month, a federal appeals court issued an opinion reversing the agency’s safety determination and ordering the agency to “further” consider evidence of glyphosate’s risks.

“People of all ages should be worried, but I’m especially worried about children,” said Phil Landrigan, who worked for years at the CDC and EPA and now leads the program for global public health and the common good at Boston College.

“Children are more heavily exposed to pesticides than adults because, weight for pound, they drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air,” Landrigan said. “Furthermore, children have many years of future life where they can develop diseases with long incubation periods like cancer. This is of particular concern with the herbicide, glyphosate.

The new data from the CDC was released as part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), research generally highly regarded by scientists.

Cynthia Curl, assistant professor of community and environmental health at Boise State University, said it’s “obviously concerning” that a large percentage of the US population is exposed to glyphosate, but said the it was still unclear how this translated to human health.

  • This story is co-published with The New Lede, a journalism project of the Environmental Working Group

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