Common product around the home faces startling health claims made in court
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A growing number of lawsuits filed across the country contend the main ingredient in “Roundup”, the country's most popular weed and grass killer, is connected to thousands of cases of cancer.
Those claims are rooted in a conclusion by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which states “Glyphosate”, Roundup's main ingredient, is "probably carcinogenic to humans".
Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, strongly disagrees with that finding.
Local 12's Duane Pohlman has been investigating what some cancer victims claim is a household danger.
Most people probably have a container of Roundup at home. Roundup, and other products that use its main ingredient “glyphosate”, are now the most popular herbicides in the world.
But thousands of cancer victims and their families in lawsuits filed across the country claim the glyphosate in Roundup caused their cancer.
One of those making that claim is a former Hamilton City worker who says he developed non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after spraying Roundup for more than a decade
Every spring and summer, for 11 years, John Vicory's main job at the city of Hamilton was to kill weeds and grass at the now-closed Hamilton City Power Plant.
“We used to spray all over this area,” said Vicory.
The product he used? Roundup.
The Hamilton Public Works Director says that Roundup is no longer used, though he says he doesn't know why the city switched.
In the spring of 2006, John was no longer out there battling weeds. He was at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center fighting cancer.
Surgeons removed two-thirds of john's right lung and he retired much earlier than he had planned.
“The type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma I got is incurable,” said Vicory. “Basically, they're just waiting for it to come back."
Vicory moved to Florida, but couldn't stop looking back.
“I wondered if it might be exposure to anything at work, but I didn't know,” said Vicory.
Then, two years ago, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, or "IARC", published a 92-page document concluding the main ingredient in Roundup, "glyphosate", is "probably carcinogenic to humans" and it found “a positive association in cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
Scott Partridge, a vice president of Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, sat down with Duane Pohlman in St. Louis and vigorously defended Roundup, disagreeing with IARC's Conclusion.
“This is not a study, This is an opinion piece,” said Partridge.
Duane reached out to IARC three times. The agency has not responded.
John and dozens of other cancer victims and their families are now plaintiffs in this lawsuit filed in St. Louis against Monsanto, claiming Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In the suit, Vicory's attorney states that John’s "non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma" is a"direct and proximate result" of using Roundup.
“There are thousands of John Vicory’s out there,” said Robin Greenwald, Vicory’s attorney.
John's attorney Robin Greenwald is a former federal environmental prosecutor who spoke to Duane from her office in New York.
“I am quite sure that roundup is dangerous to human health and the environment,” said Greenwald.
The lawsuit, and others, are all rooted in that IARC conclusion that there is a "probable" link between glyphosate exposure and cancer.
“The proof is more likely than not, which is somewhat over 50 percent. So, a probable human carcinogen is pretty strong,” said Greenwald.
“I disagree with Miss Greenwald entirely,” said Partridge.
Back in St. Louis, Scott Partridge, Monsanto's Vice President of Global Strategies, defends Roundup.
“It will do no harm. Glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” said Partridge.
Partridge attacked IARC's findings as non-scientific, saying more than 700 studies have been conducted on the health effects around the world.
“Not a single one of those studies over that 40-year period of time has found glyphosate to be a carcinogen,” said Partridge.
The EPA has approved Roundup as safe for use for decades. Last year, the EPA published a report that again affirmed Roundup is safe, stating the main ingredient "glyphosate” is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Partridge says IARC is too quick to make a cancer connection.
“Of the products they have examined in their years of existence, they have found every single one, other than one, to be associated with cancer in one form or another,” said Partridge.
Indeed, the IARC list does include things like red meat, listed, just like glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, and alcohol, which is listed as a known carcinogen.
John Vicory's lawyer defended the IARC.
“It has an incredible reputation. Monsanto is clearly trying right now to change that,” said Greenwald.
And Greenwald says there are many other scientific studies that question the safety of Roundup.
“The epidemiology that has built over the course of years about Roundup is part of the reason why I, and other lawyers who are doing this case, are so confident that we are right, that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of our clients was caused by Roundup,” said Greenwald.
While John Vicory believes there is a link, the question about a cancer connection to Roundup will likely be decided in court, where a lucrative brand and a powerful corporation.
“If it causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it changes the game big time for Monsanto,” said Greenwald.
As well as science itself would all be on trial.
“I am so sorry he’s [Vicory’s] ill. Cancer is a horrible, horrible disease. I regret that he's been led to believe that it's been caused by his use of Roundup because there is no scientific or medical evidence to support that,” said Partridge.
By the way, that Monsanto vice-president knows more than a little bit about non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He says his mother died from it and he called it “a very sad, sad disease.”
Again, Partridge and Monsanto insist there is no connection between glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, and cancer.
So, what do we do with all this new information about Roundup and glyphosates? That goes right to the heart of the debate.
Monsanto says you only need minimal protection while others say you need much more.
Local 12’s Duane Pohlman will continue to investigate this subject.