RoundUp Cancer Lawsuits
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the projected number of cancer deaths among Pennsylvania residents in 2016 was 28,431. Of those, nearly 1,000 were expected to be caused by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 533 by myeloma, 1,137 by leukemia, and 48 by Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Incidentally, all of these cancers have been linked in one study or another to glyphosate, the herbicide used in the popular weed killer Roundup. Though there have been limited human studies, there is evidence that occupational exposure to the chemical may increase the risk of these types of cancers. Yet the product has never contained any sort of warning of such a risk.
That may soon change, at least in California. On July 7, 2017, the California state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) named glyphosate as a chemical that can cause cancer. This classification and the addition of the chemical to California’s “Proposition 65” list of dangerous substances will require Monsanto to add new warnings to their label for products sold in that state. Roundup manufacturer Monsanto is fighting that change in court.
Meanwhile, hundreds of individuals have filed cancer lawsuits against Monsanto around the country in which they claim that Roundup exposure has caused serious injuries. They blame Monsanto for failing to provide adequate warnings about the risks and for conducting insufficient studies of the product’s safety.
The Pittsburgh lawyers at Chaffin Luhana are currently investigating cases in which Roundup may have caused cancer in individuals who were occupationally exposed.
What is Roundup?
Roundup is what is called a “non-selective” herbicide, which means that it kills a wide variety of plants based only on whether they produce a specific enzyme known as “EPSP synthase.” Glyphosate is the main ingredient in the product and works by inhibiting this enzyme. As it does so, the plant experiences a buildup of shikimic acid, which eventually kills it.
When Roundup is sprayed on plants, they absorb the ingredients through their leaves, stems, and roots. The product is so effective that about 250 million pounds of glyphosate are now sprayed on crops, lawns, parks, golf courses, and more each year around the world.
One of the reasons Roundup became so popular is that crops have been developed that are resistant to the herbicide. Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified seeds that are made to be “Roundup Ready,” or resistant to the herbicide’s damaging effects. In 2010, an estimated 70 percent of corn and cotton, and 90 percent of soybean fields in the U.S. contained Roundup Ready seeds.
The original Roundup came onto the market in 1974. It has been widely used since then, even though there have long been concerns about its potential carcinogenic properties.
Roundup and Cancer: The Evidence
Concerns about glyphosate’s potential links to cancer go back to the mid-1980s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified the herbicide as a Category C oncogene. That means that it was deemed a possible human carcinogen, with limited evidence of carcinogenicity. The next year, it required additional tests of the product, to further determine its potential toxicity and environmental impact.
In 1991, however, the EPA seemed to take an about face, and published a memo entitled “Second Peer Review of Glyphosate.” The memo changed glyphosate’s classification to Group E, which means evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans. Two peer review committee members, however, disagreed with the committee’s conclusions, and one refused to sign.
Subsequent studies provided additional evidence that glyphosate may increase the risk of cancer. At first, researchers tied the herbicide to DNA damage, which is believed to lead to cancer. In 1997, for instance, they tested several pesticides, including Roundup, on tadpoles. Most of the pesticides, including Roundup, caused DNA damage.
In 1999, researchers linked glyphosate exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in northern and middle Sweden. In 2003, researchers studied over 3,400 farmers exposed to herbicides, and found that many of them—including glyphosate—increased risk of NHL.
The Agricultural Health Study, which studied 57,311 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina, reported a suggested association between glyphosate and multiple myeloma. Links between the chemical and NHL were again reported in 2008 and 2014.
IARC Classifies Glyphosate as Possibly Carcinogenic
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), reviewed all these studies and more, including animal studies showing evidence that glyphosate could cause tumors, and reported in March 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
The statement caused concerns around the world, as it was the first in years to declare that the ingredient could be of significant risk to humans. It also raised questions as to why Monsanto had not provided warnings about this risk on their product label or in any materials accompanying the product.
About the same time, the WHO stated that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic,” based on the IARC’s research. The following year, together with the United Nations, they released a report that concluded glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through diet,” but noted that this report did not contradict their earlier statement, and reflected only the risk related to dietary exposure.
Farmers and other related professionals, who regularly apply large amounts of the pesticide to crops, golf courses, and parks, are among those who have suffered the most dangerous exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides. It is these individuals who make up the majority of plaintiffs filing lawsuits against Monsanto.
On its website, the EPA still maintains that glyphosate has “low toxicity for humans,” but adds that the chemical and its related acid and salt compounds are “currently undergoing registration review, a program that re-evaluates all pesticides on a 15-year cycle.”
Other Ingredients in Roundup May Exacerbate Toxicity
Roundup is made of a number of ingredients in addition to glyphosate. Some plaintiffs allege that other ingredients in the formula may increase the herbicide’s risk to humans.
One of those ingredients is POEA (polyoxyethylene tallow amine), which is a surfactant with known toxic effects on aquatic organisms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is currently investigating this ingredient and its possible effects on the environment when used in herbicide applications.
There is some evidence that POEA may worsen Roundup more toxic effects from studies that have compared Roundup to glyphosate alone. In 2002, for instance, researchers studied the effect of Roundup on sea urchin cells and found that the product caused delays in the cell cycles, while glyphosate alone did not. In 2004, they again tested the product on sea urchin cells, and found that it induced cell cycle dysregulation, noting that such dysregulation “is a hallmark of tumor cells and human cancer.”
Researchers also tested Roundup and glyphosate on rat liver cells and found that Roundup was toxic to the cells, whereas glyphosate alone was not. Scientists attributed the differences in toxicity to other ingredients in Roundup or to a potential synergistic effect between glyphosate and those other ingredients.
Finally, a 2008 study on human cells indicated that other supposedly “inert” ingredients—and possibly POEA—could potentially amplify glyphosate’s toxicity on human cells. The researchers noted that the “real toxicity” of glyphosate must take into account the presence of other ingredients in the formula and that these other ingredients “are not inert.”
Monsanto continues to defend Roundup as safe. It also fights any move that would require it to make changes to the product label to address the cancer risk.
Types of Injuries Associated with RoundUp
Farmers and pesticide applicators who are exposed to glyphosate in Roundup may be at risk for:
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- B-cell lymphoma
Those groups most at risk include:
- Farm workers
- Those with workplace exposure to glyphosate and/or Roundup
- Employees of garden centers and nurseries
Monsanto RoundUp Cancer Lawsuits
Because of the growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits being filed around the country, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that all federally filed cases be consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation the Northern District of California in October 2016 (MDL). District Judge Vince Chhabria was selected to oversee the pre-trial proceedings.
With discovery underway in the Roundup MDL, internal documents have revealed that Monsanto may have “ghostwritten” some of the major studies supporting the purported safety of the product. A March 2017 post in the New York Times reported that court documents, including Monsanto’s internal emails, suggest that Monsanto had actually written research that was later attributed to independent scientists. The documents also suggested there may have been some disagreement within the EPA over its assessment of glyphosate.
The attorneys at Chaffin Luhana are actively investigating potential Roundup lawsuits. Individuals in the Pittsburgh and Ohio Valley areas who were exposed to this herbicide and then experienced serious side effects, including cancer, may be able to recover damages in a Roundup lawsuit. Call today for a free case evaluation at 1-888-316-2311.