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Daily News Blog

28
Apr

Glyphosate Breakdown Product, Associated with Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage Among Children

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2022) A study in Environmental Research finds that glyphosate’s primary metabolite (breakdown product), aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), induces DNA damage through oxidative stress among subpopulations of primary school children. Although pyrethroid and chlorpyrifos metabolites can induce oxidative stress, this study is the first to investigate AMPA’s association with adverse health effects, rather than solely the effects of the active ingredient, glyphosate, in Roundup and other formulations.

Glyphosate is the most commonly used active ingredient worldwide, appearing in many herbicide formulations, readily contaminating soil, water, food, and other resources. Chemical use has been increasing since the inception of crops genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. However, studies demonstrate glyphosate is among the most prevalent pesticide contributors to human, biotic, and ecosystem harm. According to research, herbicide toxicity to invertebrates has doubled since 2004. Although research links glyphosate exposure to cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma, much less research considers the effects that metabolites have on children who are more vulnerable to chemical exposure. Ecological and health risk assessments primarily focus on active ingredients in pesticide products, overlooking the potential impacts of metabolites. Thus, studies like these highlight the need to assess the implications of metabolite exposure to protect human, animal, and environmental health. The study notes, “Our results indicate that [Cypriot] children are co-exposed to a mixture of pesticides likely originating from both dietary and non-dietary sources. On average, these pesticide exposures appear at higher levels than those typically measured in other EU populations. The population health risk associated with such mixture exposures needs to be further investigated.”

The researchers in this study investigated the health of children aged 10 to 11 in Cyprus, using the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) to measure urinary concentrations of glyphosate, AMPA, and pyrethroid and chlorpyrifos metabolites. Using an immunological assay, researchers identified oxidative stress using biological markers to assess lipid and DNA damage. Additionally, parents filled out questionnaires gathering data on demographic characteristics, pesticide usage, and diet.

The results find that AMPA, but not glyphosate, has a positive association with DNA damage via oxidation. Moreover, the metabolites of pyrethroids (3-PBA) and chlorpyrifos (TCPy) are also associated with DNA damage and oxidative stress. Lipid damage from oxidative stress did not occur among these pesticides. However, the results suggest parental education levels influence urinary pyrethroid levels.

Decades of extensive glyphosate herbicide use (e.g., Roundup) have put human, animal, and environmental health at risk. The chemical’s ubiquity threatens 93 percent of all U.S. endangered species, resulting in biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption (e.g., soil erosionloss of services, and trophic cascades). Exposure to glyphosate has implications for the development of various health anomalies, including cancerParkinson’s disease, and autism. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies glyphosate herbicides as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” stark evidence demonstrates links to various cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. EPA’s classification perpetuates adverse impacts, especially among vulnerable individuals, like pregnant women, infants, children, and the elderly. Not only do health officials warn that continuous use of glyphosate will perpetuate adverse health effects, but that use also highlights recent concerns over antibiotic resistance. Agrochemical company Bayer/Monsanto patents glyphosate as an antibiotic. Exposure hinders enzymatic pathways in many bacteria and parasites. However, studies find glyphosate exposure disrupts the microbial composition in both soil and animals—including humans—discerningly eliminating beneficial bacteria while preserving unhealthy microbes. Moreover, resistance to pesticides is also growing at similar rates among genetically engineered (GE) and non-GE conventionally grown crops. This increase in resistance is evident among herbicide-tolerant GE crops, including seeds genetically engineered to be glyphosate-tolerant.

This study is one of the first to identify oxidative stress from AMPA exposure among children in a nonoccupational setting. However, glyphosate and its formulations have long been associated with oxidative stress and strong evidence of genotoxicity. Moreover, glyphosate degrades relatively quickly in the environment, between five and 20 days, leaving behind AMPA, which is highly persistent with a half-life of 151 days. Therefore, researchers attribute higher rates of AMPA concentration in children’s bodies to relative availability in the environment compared to glyphosate. Additional studies find that 100 percent of adults and children have detectable levels of AMPA in urine samples, with children exhibiting a five times higher bodily concentration than adults. Therefore, researchers suggest that a shift to organic can mitigate exposure to these toxic chemicals, especially among vulnerable populations like children.  

It is essential to understand the effects widely used pesticides and their breakdown products may have on the health of current and future generations. Beyond Pesticides challenges the EPA registration of chemicals like glyphosate in court due to their impacts on soil, air, water, and our health. However, emphasis on converting to regenerative-organic systems and using least-toxic pest control can mitigate harmful exposure concerns. Public policy must advance this shift rather than continue to allow unnecessary reliance on pesticides. Considering glyphosate levels in the human body can decrease by 70% through a one-week switch to an organic diet, purchasing organic food whenever possible—which never allows glyphosate use—can help curb exposure and resulting adverse health effects. Learn more about pesticides’ impacts on human health by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. Moreover, Beyond Pesticides provides tools, information, and support to take local action: check out our factsheet on glyphosate/Roundup and our report, Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) Exposed. Contact us for help with local efforts and stay informed of developments through our Daily News Blog and our journal, Pesticides and You. Additionally, check out Carey Gillam’s talk on Monsanto’s corruption on glyphosate/Roundup at Beyond Pesticides’ 36th National Pesticide Forum.

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

Source: Environmental Research

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