COMMENTARY: Recognizing a potential Roundup case


By Jonathon K. Homa
and George T. Sinas

To date, more than 18,000 individuals in America have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, and that number grows every day. People who have regularly used Roundup products at home or work for a number of years have brought the majority of lawsuits against Monsanto.

Roundup Ingredient Glyphosate and Cancer

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in the world. The use of glyphosate has been under heavy scrutiny since 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) labeled the chemical a "probable carcinogen" for humans. The IRAC's determination was based on a comprehensive meta-analysis review, which compiled information gained from hundreds of previously conducted studies on glyphosate.

In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified glyphosate as "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." This contradictory conclusion broke the EPA's longstanding practice of aligning with the IARC's cancer hazard assessments. However, many organizations have attacked the EPA's assessment, identifying problems with its study. Furthermore, there is reportedly a disturbingly close relationship between the EPA and Monsanto. Internal corporate documents made public during court proceedings revealed this troublesome relationship.

While many health organizations continue to disagree on the risk of contracting cancer from use of Roundup products, recent research gives weight to the determinations of the IRAC. Recently, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health, published a wide-scale, scientific review and assessment of glyphosate studies. The results of the study found cancer risks resulting from pure glyphosate exposure in rodent studies, and mixed glyphosate product exposure in human epidemiologic studies. The report further confirms what Monsanto has adamantly denied that Roundup products cause cancer.

Types of Cancer Caused by Roundup

The most predominant type of cancer linked to glyphosate exposure is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma originates in the lymphatic system where tumors develop from lymphocytes. There are approximately 60 different subtypes of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. All 60 types fall into two main categories, named for its site of origin B cell lymphomas and T cell lymphomas.

B cells, also known as B lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that fight body infections by producing antibodies that neutralize foreign contaminants. The most prevalent subtypes of B cell lymphomas include diffuse large B cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma.

T cells are lymphocytes developed in the thymus gland that are involved in killing cells infected by foreign invaders. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma occurs less often in T cells than in B cells. The most common subtypes of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that involve T cells include peripheral T cell lymphoma and cutaneous T cell lymphoma.

Therefore, if a person has been diagnosed with a form of either B cell or T cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, exposure to Roundup products could be the cause of cancer.

Roundup Exposure Parameters

Exposure can occur when glyphosate comes into contact with a person's skin, eyes, or lungs (breathing vapors). Also, a person may swallow some glyphosate if they eat or smoke after applying the product without washing their hands first. The most common form of exposure is through contact with the skin during application.

Monsanto claims that glyphosate's toxic effects in animal studies do not matter because Roundup product users are only exposed to "safe" levels that do not cause such effects. However, an expert pathologist who testified in two trials regarding Roundup's carcinogenic properties gave shocking testimony that using Roundup more than two days per year doubles the risk of developing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Information and research regarding the exact amount of Roundup exposure required to cause cancer is scarce. Regulators set safety limits for glyphosate exposure based on data from the industry's own toxicity studies on laboratory animals. These toxicity studies are supposed to provide evidence of potential adverse effects on mammals, most commonly rats, whose physiology is similar to that of humans. As the Roundup litigation continues across the country, additional studies will no doubt be performed. These additional studies will continue to provide clarity on the exact levels of exposure that presents a significant risk to humans.

In light of the new research linking glyphosate to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, California added the ingredient to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment on July 7, 2019. California's proposed "safe" exposure amount is 1.1 milligrams per day for a human weighing approximately 150 lbs. The set exposure amount correlates with the dose of glyphosate expected to cause no more than one case of cancer in every 100,000 people who are exposed to it over a lifetime. Notably, California's recommended limit of 1.1 milligrams per day is drastically lower than that of the EPA, which is currently set at 140 milligrams per day.

If a person has used Roundup regularly at their home or in their profession and subsequently developed Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, glyphosate should be considered as a potential cause of cancer.

What Should Lymphoma Patients Do?

If a lymphoma patient was exposed to Roundup and subsequently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma or leukemia, it is important to make a decision regarding that patient's legal rights. The laws of Michigan protect individuals from dangerous products that cause serious health consequences to consumers, including Roundup products. If a person diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma does decide to take action, they may be eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, and other losses. It's important to know your legal rights and to contact skilled legal assistance as soon as possible.


Jonathon K. Homa and George T. Sinas are personal injury attorneys with Sinas Dramis in Lansing.

Published: Fri, Oct 04, 2019