(Beyond Pesticides, September 1, 2015) A research study published in the journal Environmental Health links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. The study, Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure, is the latest in a string of data showing unacceptable risks resulting from exposure to glyphosate and products formulated with the chemical, like Monsanto’s Roundup.
Researchers conducted the study by exposing rats to minute (0.1 parts per billion) doses of Roundup in drinking water for a period of 2 years. After noting tissue damage and biochemical changes in the blood and urine of exposed animals that was indicative of organ damage, the authors attempted to confirm their findings by analyzing changes in gene expression within liver and kidneys. Of 4,447 gene transcript clusters analyzed by scientists, 4,224 showed some alteration. Compared to non-exposed rats, “[t]here were more than 4,000 genes in the liver and kidneys whose levels of expression had changed,” said Michael Antoniou, PhD, senior author of the study to Environmental Health News.
Authors indicate that the changes in gene expression observed in the study are associated with the type of organ damage observed in the rats. “The findings of our study are very worrying as they confirm that a very low level of consumption of Roundup weedkiller over the long term can result in liver and kidney damage. Our results also suggest that regulators should re-consider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides,” said Dr. Antoniou.
Data gathered from this new research reinforces the results of a controversial study published in 2012 by lead author Gilles-Eric Séralini, PhD, which, in addition to tumor growth in exposed rats, showed adverse impacts to liver and kidneys. The study was retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and later republished in Environmental Sciences Europe.
“[A]s a country that uses a lot of glyphosate and it’s found widely across U.S. streams, this study should have some kind of public health influence,” said Nichelle Harriott, science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides. Levels of exposure tested in the recent study are far below what EPA sets as the maximum contaminate level (MCL) in drinking water throughout the U.S. While rats in the study were chronically exposed to .1 parts per billion Roundup concentrations, EPA allows 700 parts per billion. The agency notes that “some people who drink water containing glyphosate in excess of the MCL over many years could experience problems with their kidneys or reproductive disorders.” Although the current study looked at rats, the authors note that, “[A]s the dose of Roundup we investigated is environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals, and wildlife levels of exposure, our results potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations.”
Beyond direct impacts to the kidney and liver, glyphosate has recently been implicated as a having sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based upon an analysis of laboratory animals studies conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Co-author of the report, Christopher Portier, PhD, recently told a scientific briefing in London, “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.” Genotoxicity is the ability of a chemical agent to damage the genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer.
In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops has led it to be implicated in the decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.
In the face of these widespread health impacts, and in the absence of real action to restrict this chemical at the federal level, it is up to concerned citizens to advocate for changes in public land management practices within their community. Whether it’s your local government, homeowner’s association, or child’s playing field, concerned residents can make positive change and get glyphosate and other unnecessary toxic chemicals out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with perseverance. Get your community campaign going with Beyond Pesticides’ “Start Your Own Local Movement” fact sheet. Although glyphosate is an important chemical to remove from use in your community, recall that a range of chemicals are linked to public health impacts, and a comprehensive approach that encourages organic land management is the best long-term solution.
For more information about how to address pesticides in your drinking water and community at-large, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides in My Drinking Water? and refer to the Tools for Change webpage for information and inspiration, including a list of pesticide reduction policies passed in communities throughout the country. Contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Independent scientists throughout the world have come under fire from chemical industry interests looking to discredit their work and reputation for revealing the dangers associated with chemicals they produce. Help us fight back against these attacks by supporting the Fund for Independent Science, which seeks to support scientists like Tyrone Hayes, PhD, whose groundbreaking research on another herbicide, atrazine, has been the subject to attacks from the chemical company Syngenta.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides