Roundup Exposure and the Battle for Justice

Reader Contribution by Douglas Dedrick and Healing Law
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Update: This story continues in Part 2, published April 2019.

Ever since Monsanto began the use of glyphosate as an herbicide in 1969, Roundup has grown to become the most commonly used herbicide in the world. You, as well as many others, may have long suspected the potential health risks of the chemical. Now, after nearly 50 years, its detrimental impacts on our health are slowly coming to be legally recognized. After all this time it looks like we are finally going to get some justice.

WHO Says Roundup Exposure is Possibly Carcinogenic?

It all changed in 2015, when the World Health Organization’s research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), assessed the carcinogenicity of 5 organophosphate pesticides, including glyphosate. In their paper IARC Monographs Volume 112, they classified each of the 5 pesticides into to groups and labeled them as probably carcinogenic, or possibly carcinogenic to humans. Probably carcinogenic meaning that there was both limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans, as well as sufficient evidence of causing cancer in animals. And possibly carcinogenic meaning that there is convincing evidence that the pesticide causes cancer in animals.

Here’s the deal, the findings in the study caused the IARC to classify glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in humans. The classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in humans, by the IARC, was reached after the organization screened over 1000 studies.

The crazy thing is that amid the many studies they reviewed the IARC found that many of them showed that glyphosate is carcinogenic to animals. More importantly some studies showed evidence that glyphosate may be a cause of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. Furthermore, the findings of the IARC cited evidence that glyphosate exposure has also been linked to chromosomal and DNA damage in humans as well.

This brings us to today.

Lawsuits Over Roundup Exposure Flood Courtrooms

Since the findings by the WHO’s IARC in 2015, lawsuits against monsanto have been flooding courtrooms across America. In fact, as of 2018, there are over 8,000 lawsuits pending in state courts, as well as over 600 in federal courts. The first federal court hearings are slated to begin February 25th, 2019, but the cases in state courts have already been started.^

In fact, on August 10th, 2018, the San Francisco County Superior Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson. The 46 year old, former groundskeeper, was left terminally ill with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. As a groundskeeper, he was exposed to higher than average levels of Roundup, and the court found that the evidence was sufficient that glyphosate was the cause of his cancer.

It gets worse, according to the attorney of the plaintiff Monsanto was deliberately hiding documents that showed exposure to Roundup had health risks for decades!  “We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that … Roundup could cause cancer,” -Brent Wisner, Attorney for Mr. Johnson.

The jury found that not only did Roundup exposure cause the plaintiffs non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it also found Monsanto acted “with malice or oppression” to cover up the potential dangers, which the company knew to be associated with Roundup. As such, Mr. Johnson was awarded $289 million in damages, $250 million of which was punitive damages. Although the judge later reduced the punitive damages to $39 million. It should also be noted, that Monsanto has appealed the case.^

Continued Litigation Against Monsanto

With over 8,000 cases against Monsanto over the health issues allegedly caused by their product Roundup, it will be interesting to see what happens from here. With the precedent already set against Monsanto, things are looking grim on their end of things.

As you and many others have long suspected, it appears that when you are exposed to inorganic pesticides or any chemical chronically, there is an increased risk of cancer. Those chronically exposed to glyphosate such as groundskeepers like Mr. Johnson, as well as the people in agriculture, lawn care, and gardening are most at risk when it comes to developing cancers from glyphosate.

What’s the Bottom Line on Roundup Exposure?

Whether you are in a profession which exposes you chronically to Roundup or not, it is wise to limit your exposure. This, of course, means eating organic foods and choosing natural alternatives to pesticides in the garden and lawn. But, for once, we have a win on behalf of the people injured by the agribusiness, Monsanto. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.

Also, for those interested in Roundup exposure as it relates to gardening and lawn care be sure to check out the in-depth Guide to Round Up Exposure, by GreenPal. Or, the Mother Earth News article Roundup Is Making Us Sick.

Update: This story continues inPart 2, published April 2019.  


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Douglas Dedrickis landscaper, documentarian and environmental law writer. When he’s not looking for things to investigate, he is usually writing articles about lawn care. Connect with him atHealing Law, and read all of Douglas’ MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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