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CFS Statement on the ATSDR Glyphosate Toxicity Report

April 15, 2019
Center for Food Safety

CFS Statement on the ATSDR Glyphosate Toxicity Report

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, just released a draft of its long-awaited "Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate." The 250-page report assesses the human health effects of glyphosate exposure. 

"The ATSDR takes the epidemiology on glyphosate and cancer more seriously than EPA does," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. "It concedes that 'numerous studies' have found a link between exposure to glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), including three major meta-analyses."

Over 11,000 NHL sufferers with a history of Roundup exposure have sued Monsanto (recently acquired by Bayer), blaming the herbicide for their cancers. Juries in both cases tried thus far have found in favor of plaintiffs, awarding them roughly $80 million each.

"The ATSDR found that skin or dermal contact is the 'major route of exposure' for people who spray glyphosate formulations like Roundup—and this could be farmers, groundskeepers, or home users," added Freese. "This finding is consistent with what these plaintiffs are alleging: that their cancers are linked to spraying Roundup."

The new study also calls for additional research in numerous areas, including the effects of inhaling glyphosate, the impact glyphosate could have on the development of male reproductive organs, and potential risks to children—who are more highly exposed to glyphosate, pound for pound, than adults.

"Glyphosate is among the world's most intensively studied pesticides, yet this top government health agency admits there are still numerous potential risks that haven't been thoroughly vetted," said Freese. "One problem is that most studies have been done by the pesticide industry itself, introducing obvious conflict-of-interest concerns. A second is that relatively few studies have examined the impact of glyphosate formulations, as opposed to pure glyphosate, when it's known that formulations contain additional ingredients that can be toxic in their own right, or amplify the toxicity of glyphosate."

The ATSDR relied heavily on summaries of pesticide industry studies prepared by EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs. The studies themselves were not made available to it.

"EPA's pesticide division has shown incredible bias on glyphosate, and its cancer evaluation was particularly one-sided," added Freese, who supplied a comprehensive assessment of the matter to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel. "I believe ATSDR would have warned more strongly of glyphosate's cancer and other risks if they hadn't been forced to rely on the biased interpretations of EPA's pesticide office," he concluded.

The ATSDR is accepting comments on its draft report here until July 8th, 2019. Please let the Agency know what you think!

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