Roundup or glyphosate, the name of its active ingredient as it is also known by, has become ubiquitous in our environment. The U.S. Geological Survey has detected glyphosate in surface waters, rain, and air in areas of agricultural use. “Though glyphosate is the mostly widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long term effects to the environment,” says Paul Capel, USGS chemist and an author on this study. “This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season. This is crucial information for understanding where management efforts for this chemical would best be focused.”
The group Moms Across America along with Sustainable Pulse commissioned testing and found glyphosate in samples of breastmilk, drinking water and urine. Industry made promises that glyphosate does not bio accumulate in humans but is rather excreted unchanged in urine. However, the levels detected in samples suggests this is untrue and that glyphosate is building up in our bodies over time. Similar results were found by testing done in Germany, finding levels higher than those allowable in drinking water. Scientists are calling for more testing.
We are exposed to glyphosate herbicide in our food. Over 90% of US grown soy, corn, canola and cotton are genetically modified. Ingredients from these crops are in the majority of processed foods, and as a result we eat the residues from the pesticides used on them. Most of these crops are engineered to be glyphosate tolerant. Over time, weeds have developed resistance to the herbicide, therefore increasing the amount used. Allowed residues for glyphosate on food were increased back in 2013. Now new crops have been approved that are tolerant to Enlist Duo, a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D as a result of this resistance.
Pesticides are approved by testing the active ingredient. The problem with this is that the products used in agriculture or by homeowners contains ‘inert’ ingredients that help the active ingredient to work better. These whole formulations are not tested. One independent study looked at nine different pesticide formulations, and found that eight of those were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active ingredients alone. Roundup was found to be one of the most toxic. These were at levels far below those used in agriculture.
The inert ingredients themselves are found to be toxic in their own right, for instance the ingredient polyethoylated tallowamine (POE-15) used as an adjuvant in Roundup has been found to be much more toxic to human cells than glyphosate. At 1-3 ppm POE-15 entered human cells and caused them to die. This level of exposure is consistent with real-world applications.
On its own glyphosate still poses a serious problem. It is linked to endocrine disruption. An endocrine disruptor is a substance that interrupts the body’s normal biological processes. Effects are multiple and varied, and just now beginning to be researched on a broader scale. Very low levels of chemicals can actually exert more endocrine disrupting effects than high levels.
A very recent study conducted by an Australian University looked at both glyphosate and the whole formulation and its effects on human placental cells. The findings supported those of french researchers who found the whole formulation to be more toxic than the active principle alone. Exposure of 24 hours to a concentration of Roundup similar to those levels deemed acceptable for Australian drinking water caused significant cytotoxicity (cell toxcity) in vitro. These were secondary to observed endocrine disrupting effects.
Even more recently the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is a part of the World Health Organization, finished evaluations of insecticides and herbicides for their carcinogenicity. The 17 experts representing the IARC concluded that glyphosate should be classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. From the IARC monograph:
“Glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides. The largest use worldwide is in agriculture. The agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate.
Glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban, and home applications. Glyphosate has been detected in theair during spraying, in water, and in food. The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet, and the level that has been observed is generally low.”
As we learned earlier, low levels do not necessarily mean less effects. We are being exposed to this substance at every turn. Given just some of the evidence of its negative effects presented here, should we not be taking a precautionary approach?
Roundup season is just about here, meaning curbside spraying will begin in the city of Dover. Tell your representatives and the city manager that you want them to employ safer alternatives to the spraying of toxic herbicides in line with the Sustainable Dover initiative.