WASHINGTON – California’s landmark health guideline for Monsanto's herbicide glyphosate is a huge step forward, but falls short of protecting children’s health, according to evidence assembled by EWG scientists.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s proposed limit for the herbicide is 1.1 milligrams a day – 127 times less than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s legal allowance for the average-sized American. Yet a new analysis by EWG found this level must be 100 times lower to be effective in safeguarding children’s health.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” to people. Biomonitoring studies consistently find glyphosate in the bodies of Americans, including children and pregnant women, showing that exposure to this cancer-causing chemical starts in the womb.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the most heavily applied weed killer in the history of chemical agriculture. Every year, more than 200 million pounds of Roundup is used in U.S., most of which is applied to genetically engineered corn crops. A March 2017 New York Times investigation details Monsanto’s tooth-and-nail fight to subvert scientific research into the dangers of glyphosate, including potential collusion with a top EPA official who may have helped suppress evidence of glyphosate’s risk to human health.
California’s proposed 1.1 milligram a day limit for glyphosate is an essential step forward to protect the health of state residents from this toxic herbicide.
But EWG believes the state should go further and set a much lower limit for glyphosate, no more than 0.01 milligrams per day, which would protect all Californians, including children.
“Like virtually every major effort over the last 50 years to protect the environment and human health, the state of California is once again leading the way,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at EWG. “The proposed safeguards are the terrific first step at protecting California’s children, and ultimately all Americans, from the risks of exposure to glyphosate, but we believe they can and must go even further.”
“Since children’s exposures to glyphosate begin in the womb and continue for the rest of their lives, it is essential that California applies a tenfold safety factor to its glyphosate risk limit, specifically to mitigate risks to children,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s senior science advisor for children’s environmental health. “California should also apply a protective one-in-a-million cancer risk standard to glyphosate, just like the state does for carcinogens in water.”
A 2012 EPA assessment found that American adults could be ingesting more than 5 milligrams of the herbicide daily –five times more than California’s proposed limit and 500 times more than EWG’s recommended limit.
A 2015 EWG analysis found that glyphosate use in the U.S. has boomed since the early 1990s, largely due to the surge in GMO corn. With that expansion came a number of studies in recent years delving into the body burden of glyphosate exposure. For example, an ongoing study in Indiana found that pregnant women exposed to glyphosate were more likely to give birth to babies weighing less than average, a condition that may increase the children’s disease predisposition later in life.
The OEHHA’s comment period on the proposed No Significant Risk Limit on glyphosate consumption closes on June 21.
See EWG comments to the OEHHA here.