Ignoring its own guidelines for the assessment of cancer risks, the EPA has rejected evidence indicating that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's controversial herbicide Roundup®, is carcinogenic. The conclusion that glyphosate “poses no significant risks” to human health is based on a number of analyses, primarily funded by Monsanto and other industry players, which were released earlier this week. This “draft risk assessment report” contradicts a report issued by the World Health Organization, in 2015, concluding that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.
While there may be conflicting evidence over whether or not glyphosate actually causes cancer, there are other health dangers that Monsanto's hired “experts” at the EPA will not be able to deny so easily. Specifically, agricultural workers who suffer long-term exposure to glyphosate are at significantly higher risk for respiratory disorders, including bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This information came to light last summer as the result of a study appearing in the British Medical Journal publication Thorax. Researchers from Australia followed up on over 1300 subjects who had participated in the ongoing Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (TAHS) between 2002 and 2008. They discovered that agricultural workers exposed to herbicides such as glyphosate were twice as likely to develop some form of chronic lung disease. Furthermore, every decade of exposure increased the risk by more than 20 percent.
Lead author Dr. Sheikh Alif currently researches the effects of occupational exposure on chronic lung diseases among middle-aged people at the University of Melbourne. In a statement to the media, he said, “Our study looked at long-term exposure to pesticides, and it is thought that long-term exposure to pesticides increases mucus secretion and muscle contraction in the lungs, causing breathlessness, cough and wheeze.”
Another recent study carried out by a research team in Ethiopia found respiratory disease in younger farm workers who had been exposed to pesticides and other chemicals for as little as four years.
Environmental lawyer and author James Ferraro is not surprised. Ferraro, whose exposé on DuPont, Blindsided , was published this past summer, says “There’s no question that herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides are causing damage to people’s lungs. And way beyond that, too.”
Ferraro also notes that people working in related fields – such as groundskeepers, gardeners, golf course maintenance personnel and those employed in commercial greenhouses – are vulnerable as well. “They work with a variety of chemicals and pesticides and insecticides,” he says, “The incidence of a variety of cancers and conditions is way off the chart for those people.”
One of the primary reasons that such information is only now beginning to come out is corporate skullduggery on part of the industry, i.e. Monsanto. Documents released in August exposed Monsanto's collusion with journalists and government scientists, who aided and abetted a massive disinformation campaign to convince consumers that glyphosate is “harmless.”
However, another reason is the amount of time it takes for symptoms to appear. These lung diseases caused by exposure to glyphosate and other agricultural chemicals can take years, even decades before they become apparent. This means that despite Monsanto's best efforts to cover up the truth, more damning evidence of glyphosate's toxicity will be emerging in the coming years.