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Toxic Tuesdays

Glycophosate

Toxic Tuesdays

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

Glyphosate

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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Cyanide

Cyanide is a chemical usually found in compounds with other chemicals. Cyanide compounds can be

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Toxic Tuesdays

Asbestos

Toxic Tuesdays

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

Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of fibrous minerals that can be found in the environment. The fibers of these minerals are strong, flexible, and heat-resistant, making them useful when spun or woven into sheets. Asbestos was used in building materials, heat-resistant products, and machinery components. When these products break down, asbestos particles enter the air and water. This means people who work in industries such as housing repair or demolition that disturb asbestos-containing materials are at high risk for exposure. People who live near such industries are also at risk.

Breathing high levels of asbestos damages the lungs, and long-term exposure can cause scar tissue. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, and World Health Organization have all determined that asbestos is known to cause cancer. The most common kinds of cancer are lung cancer and mesothelioma, and asbestos exposure may also increase the chances of developing cancer in other organs. Because of this danger, the use of asbestos was banned in the US in 1989, but many products made before that time are still in use.

Asphalt shingles are roofing shingles that use asphalt for waterproofing. Because they’re inexpensive and easy to install they are the most widely used roofing covers in the United States. Asphalt shingles made before the 1980s may contain asbestos; although that seems like a long time ago, many of these old shingles are still around because it is common practice to layer new shingles on top of old ones. This means that asbestos-containing asphalt shingles can be found in communities all over the country.

In Wausau, Wisconsin, asphalt shingles waste has been buried as well as left in open-air piles. The grassroots community group Citizens for a Clean Wausau contacted CHEJ about the potential for old shingles in these waste piles to release asbestos into the air, exposing surrounding residents. If Wausau residents are inhaling asbestos, this could elevate their risk for developing cancer. To assess this possibility and the level of risk that may be posed to residents, measurements of contaminants in the shingles as well as in the surrounding air and dust would be necessary. The best way to ensure there is no risk to the community is to remove these shingles and destroy them safely.

Learn about more toxics

Cyanide

Cyanide is a chemical usually found in compounds with other chemicals. Cyanide compounds can be

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