California researchers link popular weedkiller to health problems in young adults

By Carey Gillam

Children exposed to a weedkiller commonly used in farming, as well as on residential yards and school playgrounds, appear to be at increased risk for liver inflammation and metabolic disorders in young adulthood and more serious diseases later in life, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The research, which was conducted by several California scientists and health researchers, including from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, is the latest of many studies linking glyphosate herbicide to human health problems.

Glyphosate is better known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup products as well as scores of other weedkilling brands sold around the world. The chemical is considered the most widely used herbicide in history, and residues are commonly present in food and water, as well as in human urine.

Monsanto and Bayer AG, which bought Monsanto in 2018, maintain that Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides are safe when used as directed, and say the weight of scientific evidence demonstrates that safety. But more than 100,000 people in the US have alleged exposure to the weedkiller caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Many independent scientific studies have linked glyphosate to cancers as well as liver disease, endocrine disruption and other health problems.

In the new study, researchers tracked 480 “mother-and-child duos” who live in the Salinas Valley of California, a key agricultural area, analyzing levels of glyphosate weed killer used in the area and levels of the weedkiller present in the urine of the mothers while they were pregnant and in the children as they grew. They also took into account levels of a degradation product of glyphosate known as AMPA in the urine of the study subjects. The researchers then assessed the liver and metabolic health of the children at the age of 18.

They concluded that higher levels of glyphosate residue and AMPA in urine in childhood and adolescence were associated with higher risk of liver inflammation and metabolic disorders in young adulthood. In addition, they found that agricultural use of glyphosate near participants’ homes from birth and up through age five was associated with metabolic disorders at age 18. Metabolic disorders in youth can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease later in life.

Both metabolic problems and liver disorders are increasing among children and young adults, according to the study.