Toxic Tuesdays

CHEJ highlights several toxic chemicals and the communities fighting to keep their citizens safe from harm.


Glyphosate is a chemical found in weed killer products such as RoundUpTM used on farms and home lawns. It gets absorbed by plant leaves, stopping plant growth within hours. Because of its effectiveness, glyphosate is found in widely used products that are easily obtainable. It is used all over the United States, but its highest concentrations are in the Midwest and Plains states. When glyphosate-containing weed killers are sprayed to kill plants, it can be inhaled and get on the skin. This can cause skin irritation and respiratory effects. People frequently working with glyphosate may be more likely to develop these respiratory effects. In scientific studies on animals, exposure to glyphosate during pregnancy caused developmental defects in the resulting offspring. Furthermore, there is concern that when combined with other chemicals found in weed killer products, glyphosate may have increased toxicity on humans.

Whether or not exposure to glyphosate increases the risk of cancer is inconclusive. The US EPA classifies it as not likely to cause cancer; however, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that it probably does. There have been allegations that large agrochemical corporations that use glyphosate in their products have close relationships with the governmental organizations that conduct the studies regarding glyphosate’s health risks. While more studies and risk assessments may need to be done to be certain of the risks, it is crucial that these studies are done transparently and without bias to protect and inform the public.

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