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Daily News Blog

23
Apr

U.S. Health Agency Concurs with International Findings Linking Weed Killer Glyphosate to Cancer, while Inspector General Investigates Misconduct at EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2019) “If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Jess Rowland, former Deputy Division Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Dan Jenkins, U.S. Agency Lead for Regulatory Affairs at Monsanto, in April 2015. The two were discussing the Monsanto officials’ desire to halt an impending investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) into the health risks that the weed killer glyphosate poses to the public. But despite the attempts of an apparently corrupt EPA official, earlier this month DHHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released its first draft on the Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate. Top-line findings appear consistent with conclusions made by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.

Although not officially “killed,” Mr. Rowland’s cozy relationship with Monsanto did lead to a delay in ATSDR’s report, and prompted an EPA Inspector General investigation into potential misconduct.

While Mr. Rowland’s acts were concerning, Monsanto’s attempts to quash this investigation did not stop there. Toxicologist Mary Manibusan is a prime example of the revolving door between industry and the agency that is supposed to oversee it. A long-time EPA employee, Ms. Manibusan worked at the agency for eight years before taking a job in the private sector. As word of an ATSDR report became more concrete, Monsanto reached out to her for her access and influence with ATSDR officials. “Sweetheart – I know lots of people,” Ms. Manibusan told Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs in a text message. “You can count [on] me.”

Mr. Sachs concern? “We’re trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur w[ith] this group. May need your help.” Ms. Manibusan is now back with EPA as of this month. According to her Linkedin, she is an agency Division Director.

And efforts to suppress ASTDR’s work did not stop there. It appears the pesticide industry tried to insert language into a fiscal appropriations bill that directs ATSDR to “focus on its core mission of assessing hazardous exposures and working with communities, if requested, near toxic waste sites and not agricultural operations. That attempt was also unsuccessful and the language does not appear in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019.

ATSDR does not make a definitive conclusion one way or another on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. However, the studies and references analyzed in the report indicate clearly there is strong link between glyphosate and cancer. Of particular note are the three meta-analyses of epidemiological studies reviewed by ATSDR: Schinasi and Leon (2014), Chang and Delzell (2016), and the IARC monograph, which all found “positive associations” between glyphosate exposure and cancer. The Chang and Delzell (2016) study, funded in part by Monsanto itself, downplays in its abstract conclusions that in fact line up closely to the other meta-studies.

Cancer was not the only subject in ATSDR’s review of glyphosate. It also reviewed the effects of the chemical on body weight, pulmonary and cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal affects, neurotoxicity, impacts to the kidney and liver, skeletal system, its endocrine disrupting properties, effects on the immune system, developmental and reproductive systems, and impacts to the eyes and skin. Not all of these health endpoints revealed significant concerns, but the review should bring more attention to non-cancer impacts on the lungs, reproductive system, and the possibility of glyphosate exposure resulting in developmental effects in pregnant mothers.

It is because of the courage of California school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson that the public has access to evidence of Monsanto’s subterfuge around this U.S. public health chemical review process. His ultimately successful litigation against Monsanto for causing his cancer, with a $289 million jury verdict, led to the disclosure of the internal documents and emails cited above.

ATSDR has opened public comments on its glyphosate review through this link.  Although many health endpoints are covered by this review, it is not quite comprehensive and there is room for ATSDR to conduct further evaluation on full-formulation toxicity, the raw data on industry studies (reviewers had access only to EPA summaries of industry-submitted studies), and impacts to the microbiome.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Sources (and further analysis): ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety

 

 

 

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  • Archives

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