There's been a striking increase in the number of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases over the past three decades, and a major new scientific review suggests chemical pesticides—particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup—are playing an important role in fueling the cancer.
The Roundup-Lymphoma Connection
The review, recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, examined 44 papers to see how 80 active ingredients in 21 different chemical classes impacted farmers' risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer researchers found that exposure to glyphosate doubled a person's risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. That's problematic, since the chemical is now so heavily used it's winding up in the rain! The reason for the surge in glyphosate use can be attributed to the rise of genetically engineered crops. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, developed genetically engineered seeds that were designed to withstand heavy Roundup sprayings. In the last 20 years, the use of these seeds has skyrocketed.
Despite being hailed by industry as a way to reduce chemical use in farming, Professor Chuck Benbrook, PhD, a research professor at Washington State University, recently found that between 1996 and 2011, GMO technology actually increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds—that's an 11 percent bump. For 1 pound of insecticide avoided, four pounds of herbicides are used. Since weeds are developing resistance to glyphosate because it's being overused, farmers are applying higher levels of glyphosate more frequently. In fact, Norwegian scientists recently detected extreme levels of Roundup in a popular U.S. food ingredient.
Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate have been linked to:
• death of human embryonic cells
• breast cancer and other cancers
• hormone disruption
• birth defects
• eye, skin, and respiratory irritation
• spontaneous abortions in farm animals.
"Data has been emerging that point to various health and environmental consequences resulting from glyphosate and Roundup use. These include an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, genetic damage, neurological impacts, as well as water contamination, impacts on amphibians and immune function, and increasing weed resistance," explains Warren Porter, PhD, professor of environmental toxicology and former chair of zoology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The chemical is so widely used—farmers sprayed approximately 57 million pounds in 2010 alone—that glyphosate is routinely detected in human and even cow urine. Scientists have shown that incredibly tiny doses can trigger health problems, including potentially irreversible biological changes.
"A compound that supposedly degrades rapidly due to sunlight has been measured by the United States Geological Survey in the atmosphere and water—in abundance—all over the Midwest over multiple years," Porter adds. "This compound can affect the rate of conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which implies effects on sexual development and sexual preferences."
Aside from the Roundup-non-Hodgkin's lymphoma connection, researchers also found 2,4-D exposure in farming led to a 40 percent higher increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma risk. That's worth noting, too, since the federal government is considering the approval of GMO seeds designed to withstand both 2,4-D and glyphosate.
Scientists believe many of these farming chemicals—substances commonly detected on and in the nonorganic foods we eat—are negatively impacting white blood cells, throwing our immune systems out of whack.
To avoid Roundup in your food:
• Eat organic whenever possible. GMO seeds designed to be sprayed with glyphosate; these GMO seeds are banned in organic agriculture.
• Avoid nonorganic processed foods as much as possible.
• If you do opt for nonorganic processed foods, look for "Non-GMO Verified" options, or foods without corn, soy, canola, or cotton oil ingredients. (Note: These foods could still contain other harmful systemic pesticides.)
To avoid Roundup around your home:
• Use safer weed-killing products, like Burnout.
• Raise your lawnmower deck to at least 3 inches, which is usually as high as most residential lawnmowers go. This height will eliminate a lot of broadleaf weeds. Mowing your grass too low could turn your green grass brownish, and eliminate taller grass's weed-suppressing shade.
• If you are hooked up to a public water system, look at your water bill and contact your water utility to ask to see the most recent "consumer confidence report" or water quality report so you can identify contaminants in your area. If you use a well, you can request a report from a nearby utility to gauge potential local contaminants, including chemical pesticides.
• To remove levels of glyphosate from your water, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends using granular activated-carbon filters.
More Food Chemicals Linked to Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Carbamate insecticides. Found in bug sprays or baits, including Sevin products sold in many home-improvement stores, to kill cockroaches, ants, fleas, crickets, aphids, and other bugs found in the home and garden. In federal pesticide-residue tests, this type of chemical most commonly turned up on nonorganic frozen strawberries, hot and sweet bell peppers, and peaches.
Organophosphate insecticides. Highly toxic to birds, bees, and humans, organophosphate pesticides are also linked to the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Foods more commonly containing organophosphate insecticide residues include nonorganic strawberries, celery, and corn.
Lindane. A common ingredient in lice and scabies treatments, this possible carcinogen has recently been banned for agricultural use globally.
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