Over the years, Roundup has become one of the most popular weed killers on the market. As early as 1985, scientists have sounded alarm bells about the potential dangers of being exposed to Roundup and other weed killers that contain its main active ingredient, glyphosate.
The History of Roundup
In the early 1970s, scientists at Monsanto, an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company, developed a chemical herbicide called glyphosate. In 1973, the company began marketing and manufacturing the chemical as Roundup in the United States, available for both agricultural and residential use.
By the 1990s, Monsanto had begun genetically engineering seeds, like corn, soybeans and sugar beets, to tolerate glyphosate. These “Roundup Ready” seeds allowed farmers to use agricultural-grade Roundup to kill weeds without harming the surrounding crops.
Over the years, Roundup has become one of the most popular weed killers on the market. In fact, a 2016 study showed it was the most widely used agricultural chemical in human history. People use it on their lawns and gardens. It’s spread in parks and playgrounds, and on the crops we eat.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm identified glyphosate (Roundup’s active ingredient) as a probable human carcinogen, setting off a wave of research into the chemical’s link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lawsuits against the manufacturer. In 2018, Bayer AG acquired Monsanto.
Other Products Contain Glyphosate
Monsanto retained exclusive rights to glyphosate in the United States until the patent expired in 2000. Since then, glyphosate has been used in many other weed killers and other products.
Some foods may also contain trace amounts of glyphosate. For example, a 2019 study from the Environmental Working Group found that many oat-based cereals, granolas, oat bars and instant oats contained concerning levels of glyphosate contamination. When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration conducted its own research, the organization did not detect harmful levels of glyphosate in its studied samples.
In 2015, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient, as “probably carcinogenic in humans” based on various human, animal and in vitro studies. Specifically, exposure to glyphosate was linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
In response, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FDA insisted that glyphosate is safe for human use. However, multiple studies are still being done to reach a final conclusion.
For example, in 2019, researchers at U.C. Berkley, the Mountain Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Washington found a “compelling link” between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These studies have linked Roundup and glyphosate exposure to a 41-70% increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs when your body creates too many abnormal white blood cells. It impacts the lymphatic system, which is part of your germ-fighting immune system. As white blood cells grow abnormally, tumors may begin to form throughout the body.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is just a category of lymphoma, with many subtypes that fall under it. Recovery and survival rates vary between the types and an individual’s situation, but advances in treatment options have helped improve the prognosis for those diagnosed.
Some symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
- Chest or abdomen pain
- Coughing or trouble breathing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
Always talk with your doctor if you experience persistent signs or symptoms.
Due to its popularity and household use, many groups of people may have been impacted by Roundup. That includes those who may not even be aware they were exposed to the chemical. Those who may be at risk for exposure include:
- Farmers/farm workers
- Garden center or nursery workers
- Avid gardeners
In July 2021, Bayer announced it would remove glyphosate from its residential lawn and garden products, effective January 2023. Moving forward, the company will manufacture household weed killers without this chemical. The vast majority of Roundup lawsuits stem from residential use, so this move is unsurprising.
However, professional and agricultural users, such as farmers and retailers will still be able to purchase glyphosate products after January 2023.
Despite its health risks, glyphosate is an incredibly effective weed killer. Still, there are safer alternatives to consider, especially when it comes to residential lawns and gardens. For example, industrial vinegar has been known to kill weeds. Be sure to wear protective goggles and gloves if you go this route. Household vinegar on its own may not be strong enough to kill off unwanted weeds, but adding salt can make it more effective.
Organic weed killers are also good alternatives. Manufacturers claim their products are safe for humans and pets but always read the label carefully before using any chemical product.
Finally, corn gluten, a byproduct of corn starch processing, has been known to slow the development of new weeds. This dry powder is safe for people and the environment.
Many people have come forward with claims that exposure to Roundup led to their cancer diagnosis since the WHO’s revelations in 2015. Thousands of lawsuits, including class actions and individual claims, have been filed against Bayer.
One of the most significant outcomes was a $10 billion settlement in 2020, which Bayer paid to end tens of thousands of lawsuits. A portion of that amount was set aside to cover future lawsuits.
Roundup Class Action Lawsuit
Decisions have not been limited to class action suits. In 2019, a California jury delivered a $2 billion verdict to a couple who claimed Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though a court reduced the final settlement amount. In that same year, a California man was awarded $80 million in a trial verdict. A 2018 landmark trial awarded $289 million to a groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That verdict was finalized at $78 million.
Despite numerous settlements, including the $10 billion decision, Roundup litigation is ongoing, and law firms continue to take on clients seeking justice.
For more information on Roundup, glyphosate, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, visit these trusted sources:
- IARC Monograph on Glyphosate – World Health Organization
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – Mayo Clinic
- Glyphosate – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Questions and Answers on Glyphosate – U.S. Food & Drug Administration
- Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits – New York Times