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Eric T. Chaffin
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California Adds Herbicide in Roundup to List of Cancer-Causing Chemicals

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It’s common in the summer season to attack those weeds that plague our walkways with Roundup, a popular weed control product, but recent research suggests we may want to think twice.

The California state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently added the herbicide used in Roundup—glyphosate—to the list of chemicals that can cause cancer. Monsanto, the manufacturer, will now have to add a warning on the product label to that effect.

Monsanto has been fighting the state for some time to protect its blockbuster product. The company sued the OEHHA last year when the organization first sought to add the chemical to their list. Monsanto lost that case, but has appealed the decision.

IARC Names Glyphosate as “Probable Carcinogen”

On July 7, 2017, glyphosate was officially added to California’s list of carcinogenic chemicals. Monsanto called the listing “unwarranted” and has vowed to continue fighting the addition in court.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” based on a scientific review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). That review involved numerous animal studies and some human studies on the chemical and its potential relationship to cancer.

The IARC has reported that in some limited human studies, glyphosate was linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Nearly 200 plaintiffs have filed cancer lawsuits against Monsanto, claiming that Roundup caused them to develop cancer, citing, among other evidence, the IARC report.

Glyphosate is currently the most popular weed killer in the world. It is used in home yards and gardens, as well as in agriculture and forestry. Though the chemical has been under scrutiny since the 1980s, the U.S. EPA has not yet defined it as carcinogenic.

California Publishes Annual List of Toxic Chemicals

In 1986, California approved a new initiative to address growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. It was called the “Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” also referred to as “Proposition 65.”

The act requires the state to update and publish an annual list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. The list is intended to provide Californians with important information they can use to make informed decisions about which products they buy. It also helps dissuade manufacturers from selling contaminating drinking water with potentially dangerous chemicals.

The list currently contains things like pesticides, dyes, solvents, and additives found in common household products, used in manufacturing or construction, and produced as byproducts of chemical processes. If two independent committees of scientists and health professionals determine that a chemical can cause either cancer or reproductive harm it may be placed on the list. It may also be added to the list if an authoritative organization such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies a chemical as causing cancer or reproductive harm.