Preliminary results from a new study show that exposure to glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which has already been linked to cancer, may also be linked to pregnancy problems.
Researchers involved with the study say they have tested and tracked 69 mothers and found that the presence of glyphosate in the body is correlated with pregnancy problems such as lower birth weight and reductions in gestation age. While the research is still in its early stages, the team presented its findings last week at a conference hosted by the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) in Washington, D.C.
The glyphosate pregnancy research is being led by Dr. Paul Winchester, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Franciscan St. Francis Health System and professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana.
“In our study, which is ongoing, mothers with relatively higher levels of glyphosate were more likely to have shorter pregnancies and deliver babies with lower birth-weight, outcomes that everyone should be concerned about,” says Dr. Winchester. “This is a huge issue.”
Data Shows Glyphosate Pregnancy Problems
Initial data from the study, “Fetal Exposure to Glyphosate,” shows that glyphosate was found in the urine of 63 out of the 69 mothers who participated in the research. The expectant mothers in the study were receiving prenatal care at an Indiana obstetric practice between 2015 and 2016.
According to the data, higher glyphosate levels were associated with reductions in gestation-adjusted birth weight and gestation age. The glyphosate pregnancy study also found that women living in rural areas had higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies relative to women living in urban or suburban areas, suggesting an additional route of exposure to glyphosate associated with proximity to corn and soybean production fields.
In his presentation at CEHN, Winchester pointed out that shorter pregnancies with relatively low birth weights have been associated with “lower cognitive ability later in life and a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
While correlation doesn’t necessarily equate to causation, the preliminary results of the glyphosate pregnancy study are troubling. People can be exposed to glyphosate by ingesting residue of the chemical on foods, or by proximity to farming operations that spray the chemical.
Glyphosate use has skyrocketed across the U.S. over the last decade, coinciding with the rise in genetically-modified, glyphosate-tolerant crops. According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, who also presented at CEHN, “more acres of cropland in the Midwest will harbor three or more glyphosate-resistant weeds than one or none” by the year 2020. Agricultural industry figures estimate that herbicide use will only continue to grow, so it is imperative that scientists and regulators come to some consensus on what constitutes safe levels of exposure.
Dr. Winchester, who said he was surprised by the preliminary data in his glyphosate pregnancy study, believes significantly more research on glyphosate exposure is needed. Recently, he was very critical of the U.S. regulators, which have routinely skipped testing foods for glyphosate residues, even though federal agencies regularly test foods for thousands of other pesticides every year.
“Is this level of exposure safe or not?” asks Dr. Winchester. “We’ve been told it is, but exposures haven’t been measured … It’s mind-boggling.”
Glyphosate Linked to a Host of Problems, Including Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Monsanto discovered the herbicidal properties of glyphosate in 1970 and began marketing it under the brand name Roundup in 1974. The weed killer has since grown into one of the most widely used agricultural products in history, generating billions in revenue for Monsanto.
The herbicide’s safety, however, has been a hot button issue in the United States and around the world. Dozens of studies have correlated glyphosate exposure to a number of wide-ranging health issues, including, but not limited to ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, birth defects, cancer, Celiac disease, colitis, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disorder, kidney disease, liver disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
In March of 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report on glyphosate concluding that the chemical is a probable human carcinogen. According to the IARC report, the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers. The report also found that there is evidence that glyphosate exposure caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, as well as genotoxic, hormonal, and enzymatic effects in mammals.
The IARC report was the impetus behind hundreds of lawsuits filed against Monsanto by farmers, agricultural workers, gardeners, landscapers, government workers, and others who allege that exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is working with renowned environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy in representing individuals in the Monsanto Roundup cancer litigation. As of April 2017, the firm has filed claims on behalf of hundreds of people who were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup.