Erin Brockovich is a legal clerk and environmental activist who was key in building a legal case against Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 1993. Her successful lawsuit was the subject of a 2000 film, Erin Brockovich, which starred Julia Roberts. Since then, Brockovich has become a media personality as well, hosting the TV series Challenge America with Erin Brockovich on ABC and Final Justice on Zone Reality.
Erin Brockovich came out swinging in a December 2018 op-ed in The Guardian against glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup that is thought to lead to some forms of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (1).
She noted in her piece that when she was in Tampa Bay recently, she saw airboats moving up and down the river banks spraying huge amounts of weed killer on the vegetation there. Florida is trying to control and kill off many types of weeds in its waterways. Children were lying there in the sun, and although they knew to not swim in the water choked with algae, the weedkiller mist drifted down on them.
The major ingredient in that mist and in the one that is sprayed all over Tampa Bay, is glyphosate, which is one of the most used herbicides in America.
It was first registered for use here in 1974, and is a critical ingredient in more than 750 herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup. For more than 25 years, Americans have been using Roundup and related glyphosate-based herbicides to boost agricultural production, manage forests and kill nuisance weeds in our lawns.
In August 2018, Brockovich notes, a civil jury found that Monsanto was guilty of causing the cancer of former groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, in California. The jury awarded him $289 million. Almost 8700 other similar roundup lawsuit cancer cases against Monsanto are also going to court soon.
Increasing research suggests that glyphosate causes cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with which the groundskeeper was diagnosed in 2014. At least three clinical studies have linked glyphosate to the disease. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer at the WHO found that glyphosate is a probable cause of cancer in people. The state environmental protection agency in California has also declared it is probably a carcinogen.
Glyphosate Common in American Foods
There are many common foods we consume in America that have glyphosates, such as almonds, carrots, quinoa, soy products, vegetable oil, corn and corn oil, canola seeds, beets and beet sugar and sweet potatoes. Research recently released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated that Cheerios, Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and 29 other favorite foods for breakfast contain unsafe quantities of glyphosate. Also, the group Moms Across America did a test of six types of orange juice recently and discovered that all of them contained glyphosate. The measured levels of glyphosate in all the orange juice products ranged from 2.99 PPB to 17.16 PPB. Tropicana was shown to have the most toxic levels at 17.16, and Florida’s Natural had the next highest level of all brands tested, having levels that were three time more than just a year earlier.
EWG has been urging public action to get EPA to revise its standards, which do not adequately cover the presence of glyphosate in foods. Research shows that glyphosate in the bodies of some people has risen by 1300% in the last two decades, per a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (2).
There also is strong evidence that glyphosate is an essential factor in the toxic algae bloom problem in Florida and in similar issues across the country. Research that was conducted on Lake Erie found that algae thrive from the phosphorus that is released when the chemical is sprayed on some types of soil. Also, human exposure to the algae, which is harmful to pets and wildlife, has been linked to health problems such as Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.
Brockovich writes that glyphosate is one of 80,000 commercially produced chemicals in the US. Some of these chemicals, such as PFOA and hexavalent chromium, have also been linked to health problems, including testicular cancer and lung cancer.
Different from pharmaceuticals, which must undergo testing monitored by the FDA before being released to the public, most chemicals such as glyphosate are not fully tested on how they affect people and ecosystems. Governments lack the resources, and the companies do not have the financial incentive to make sure they are safe.
Brockovich concludes that the EPA, the Trump administration and Republicans only want to reduce the safeguards that are in place to protect the public from toxic chemicals. So it is incumbent upon US citizens to petition legislators, vote, rally the community and lobby to ensure that the dangers of this chemical are fully understood and dealt with – soon.
- (1). The Weedkiller in Our Food Is Killing Us. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/the-weedkiller-in-our-food-is-killing-us
- (2). Excretion of the Herbicide Glyphosate in Older Adults Between 1993 and 2016). (2017). Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2658306