The World Health Organization has announced that glyphosate, an ingredient in certain weedkillers, is probably causing cancer in humans. This announcement was based on an assessment performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Weedkillers are commonly used for both agricultural and home purposes.
According to the IARC, several herbicides and pesticides, including glyphosate, diazinon, malathion, tetrachlorvinphos and parathion, are labelled category 2A, which means they likely cause cancer. Several studies have shown an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in those who work closely with the chemicals, including farmers and others in the agriculture industry. Animal studies have shown similar links with mice and rats regularly exposed to the chemicals being more prone to developing tumors early. Further research has shown DNA damage in human cells after exposure to the toxins.
While the evidence is certainly damning, not all agree with the conclusions. Agrochemical companies argue that the methodology used is lacking and that previous regulatory reviews have determined the chemicals are safe. The company believes the IARC has ignored previous studies proving safety and excluded relevant data. The company adds that the IARC has also classified aloe vera and coffee as carcinogenic. More studies may be needed to determine if there is a safe level of exposure or to prove or disprove the link. The EPA is also conducting a formal review of the chemicals.
Until there is a clear verdict on the safety of these substances, you can take some steps to reduce your exposure. Eliminating processed foods can be a great start since these products commonly contain high levels of residue. Read labels to avoid products that contain sugar beets, corn and soy, which are all commonly contaminated. When possible, buy products that are labeled “USDA 100% organic.” Grass-fed or pasture-fed and game meats are less likely to have been exposed and may be safer for consumption. Finally, avoid using weed killers in your garden or lawn and deal with weeds the old-fashioned way: by pulling them.