Nav: Home

Weedkiller chemical (glyphosate) safety standards need urgent review

March 23, 2017

Emerging evidence suggests that the safety standards for glyphosate--a chemical widely used in common weed-killers--may be failing to protect public and environmental health, suggest experts in an essay published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The standards are based on out of date science, say the researchers, and may not therefore be able to address the full complement of potential health hazards associated with exposure to these chemicals. They call for an urgent review of these standards.

Earlier this month, the European Chemicals Agency gave glyphosate the all-clear, concluding that it is not linked to a heightened risk of cancer in people. This ruling will be used to inform the European Commission's decision later this year on whether to re-authorise the use of this chemical.*

In the US, glyphosate use has increased rapidly over the past two decades and it is now the most widely used weed-killer in the nation. And global estimates suggest that in 2014 enough glyphosate was used to spray nearly 0.5 kg on every hectare of arable land across the entire planet.

Glyphosate is not only used to kill off weeds before crops are planted, and to control weed growth afterwards, but it is also used to speed up the natural drying of seeds before harvest. Residues have also been found in soybeans, wheat, barley and many other crops and foods, say the researchers.

But most of the science used to support the safety standards applied in the US was carried out more than 30 years ago, and relatively little of it was subject to peer review, they point out. More than 1500 studies have been published on the chemical over the past decade alone.

"It is incongruous that safety assessments of the most widely used herbicide on the planet rely largely on fewer than 300 unpublished, non-peer reviewed studies while excluding the vast modern literature on glyphosate effects," say the experts.

And despite the rapid increase in use there is no systematic monitoring system for tracking levels in human tissue, and few studies have looked at potential harms to human health.

But recent animal studies have suggested that glyphosate at doses lower than those used to assess risk, may be linked to heightened risks of liver, kidney, eye and cardiovascular system damage.

And weed-killers, which combine glyphosate with other 'so-called inert ingredients,' may be even more potent. But these mixtures are regarded as commercially sensitive by the manufacturers and are therefore not available for public scrutiny, say the experts.

Debate continues to rage as to whether glyphosate is associated with a heightened risk of cancer or whether it has the potential to disrupt hormone function.

The researchers call for:
  • improved surveillance of the levels of glyphosate and its metabolites in people
  • the latest state of the art tests and technology to be applied to risk assessments of these chemicals and other combination weed-killers
  • further research to track occupational exposures in agricultural workers, manufacturers, and other vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and their children
  • evaluations of commercial combination weed-killers containing glyphosate.

"After a review of all evaluations, we conclude that the current safety standards are outdated and may fail to protect public health and the environment," they write.
-end-


BMJ

Related Environmental Health Articles:

UMass Amherst Environmental Health researcher honored for 'irritating' science
The Cornell Douglas Foundation, an environmental health and justice advocacy group based in Bethesda, Md., has named University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental health scientist Laura Vandenberg one of its 2016 Pearl Award winners in recognition of her
WSU researchers show genetic variants and environmental exposures have influence on health
Scientists at the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics have shown for the first time the extent by which interactions between environmental exposures and genetic variation across individuals have a significant impact on human traits and diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, strengthening the case for precision medicine initiatives.
NIH to recognize 12 champions of environmental health research
Twelve individuals will receive the first-ever Champion of Environmental Health Research Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, for their significant contributions to the field.
Clinton, Stein answer research consortium's science, engineering, technology, health and environmental questions
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have provided responses to America's Top 20 Presidential Science, Engineering, Technology, Health and Environmental Issues.
Environmental and health impacts of US health-care system
If the US health-care system were a country, it would rank 13th in the world for greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research.
New NIH-EPA research centers to study environmental health disparities
The National Institutes of Health has partnered with the US Environmental Protection Agency to fund five new research centers to improve health in communities overburdened by pollution and other environmental factors that contribute to health disparities.
New Berkeley Lab study tallies environmental and public health benefits of solar power
Solar power could deliver $400 billion in environmental and public health benefits throughout the United States by 2050, according to a study from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Economist recognized for work on intersections of poverty, sustainability and environmental health
The Executive Committee of The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement today announced the selection of Sir Partha S.
Innovative device traces chemicals affecting human and environmental health
In a new study, a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team of researchers headed by Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, tracks the course of a family of widely used pesticides known as fiproles.
A combined carbon and sugar tax could have environmental and health benefits
A combination of a carbon tax on food and a tax on sugary drinks in the UK could lead to health benefits, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise up to £3.6 billion revenue, according to research published in the open-access journal BMC Public Health.

Related Environmental Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...