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Daily News Blog

25
May

More Evidence Documents Glyphosate’s Link to Adverse Birth Outcomes

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2021) High levels of glyphosate in urine later in a pregnancy is significantly associated with preterm birth, according to recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan. While awareness of the strong connection between glyphosate and certain cancers is growing among the public, the chemical’s link to adverse pregnancy outcomes is beginning to receive more attention. “Since most people are exposed to some level of glyphosate and may not even know it, if our results reflect true associations, then the public health implications could be enormous,” said senior author John Meeker, ScD, professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

This latest study is part of a cohort dubbed PROTECT (Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats), focused on investigating environmental exposures leading to preterm birth in Puerto Rico. Previous research indicates that Puerto Rico has some of the highest rates of preterm births in the United States, roughly matching Mississippi. With America’s abysmal track record for maternal care, preterm birth rates in these locations also represent the highest in the world.

In order to determine the association between glyphosate use and preterm pregnancy, pregnant women between the ages of 18 to 40 were recruited at local hospitals and clinics in northern PR at around 14 weeks pregnant. Study subjects did not have major preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, organ damage, or heart disease. Urine samples were obtained from the enrolled women roughly at weeks 18, 22, and 26 of gestation. These samples were tested for the presence of both glyphosate and its common breakdown component AMPA (Aminomethylphosphonic acid). Preterm births were defined in the study as delivery prior to the 37th week of pregnancy.

Of the 247 women tested, glyphosate detection rates were roughly 78%, and AMPA was found in half of participants at each test. While associations were not found between glyphosate/AMPA levels found early in pregnancy and preterm birth, late term exposures differed. Detection of glyphosate during the last visit at 26 weeks was significantly associated with having a preterm birth – with data showing a roughly 67% increased odds with AMPA and 35% increased odds with glyphosate exposure.

Dr. Meeker indicates that the spark for this research came when seeing an advertisement for glyphosate after pulling out of a PR gas station. “I’m like, I’m wondering if we can measure its main chemical, glyphosate, in our participants. Maybe that’s high here,” Dr. Meeker said.

“Despite the potential for widespread exposure to glyphosate and AMPA, there is very little information regarding the health effects of exposure during pregnancy,” said study coauthor Monica Silver, PhD. “Ours is the first study to measure AMPA, and only the second to measure glyphosate in relation to birth outcomes.”

Beyond Pesticides reported on that prior research in 2017, in which 69 expectant mothers were tested and tracked. For that study, glyphosate was detected in 63 of 69 mothers, and women with higher levels were found to have significantly shorter pregnancies, and babies with lower birth weights. While studies are now findings concerning associations, there has been evidence of glyphosate’s impact on birth outcomes for decades.

In 2011, a report published by Earth Open Source sounded the alarm about the European Union’s knowledge of the associations between glyphosate and adverse birth outcomes. At the time, the data was limited to laboratory studies. Monsanto released a statement after the 2011 report was published, saying, “Based on our initial review, the Earth Open Source report does not appear to contain any new health or toxicological evidence regarding glyphosate.”

This highlights the weakness of regulations in both the EU and the U.S. While the laboratory evidence  (most often produced by the chemical manufacturers themselves) may indicate associations with birth defects, it is all too easy for regulators to hide behind risk and chance, and indicate that label changes will avert these dangers, or even that the risks are too low for any action at all. Even when strong epidemiological data is built, like it has now been for cancer effects, and is beginning to occur for birth defects, regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lean on risk calculations and shirk their responsibility to protect the public.

Recent research finds that pregnant women have over 100 chemicals detectable in their bodies, with 89% of the chemicals detected of unknown origin, or lacking adequate data. Such ubiquitous exposure to environmental chemicals should concern us all. But even more concerning are studies which are able to pinpoint the health effects of one particular chemical, and then link that chemical directly to an adverse outcome. Although additional data is always needed to firm up connections, and make the jump between associations and likelihood of causality, with the range of ever-present environmental hazards, advocates argue that it should be incumbent upon regulators to act quickly and embrace a precautionary approach.

In the absence of protective regulations from the widespread use of pesticides like glyphosate, US residents, particularly sensitive populations like pregnant mothers, are encouraged to take their own precautions. One important step can be switching to an all organic diet. Study after study finds that making that switch significantly reduces the levels of synthetic pesticides like glyphosate in the body.

For more information on the link between pesticides and our health, attend the first ever virtual National Pesticide Forum, starting today at 1pm ET. Today’s workshop “Protecting Children from Pesticides” will feature expert speakers, including Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP of New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute, and Maida Galvez, MD, of the Dept. of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, and Dept. of Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, discussing the link between pesticide use and children’s health.  Click here to view the forum webpage and register now!

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

Source: University of Michigan News, Environmental Health Perspectives

 

 

 

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