Dangerous Herbicide Found in Moms’ Breast Milk

Wednesday Jun 18 | BY |
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Breast Milk

A recent study found the herbicide glyphosate in human breast milk,
raising concerns about widespread contamination.

If you haven’t heard of glyphosate, it’s time to become familiar with it, as it could potentially harm your health, or the health of your young child.

Glyphosate is an herbicide used on many food and non-food crops as well as on roadside weeds. It helps to control broadleaf weeds and grasses in hay/pasture, soybeans, cornfields, lawns, turf, and more.

You probably know it better by its brand name—Roundup. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the product, and is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S.

A number of studies have shown that not only is this herbicide potentially harmful to us, but that it actually accumulates in the body.

The latest bad news: results of a small study found that glyphosate was present in the breast milk of American women.

Glyphosate a Hormone Disruptor

In June 2013, results from a German study showed that people in 18 countries across Europe had traces of glyphosate in their urine. (None of the volunteers handled or used glyphosate products before the tests were conducted.) Up until then, it wasn’t clear whether the herbicide was getting into food or water supplies to such an extent that it could actually migrate into human bodies.

Glyphosate is used in many genetically modified crops, including soybeans and corn. The fact that it is so widely used is leading many to question its potential health effects. Another 2013 study, for example, found that glyphosate induced human breast cancer cells to grow through estrogen receptors, even when present at very low levels. In other words, it acted as a hormone disruptor.

Worse, scientists found there was an additive estrogenic effect between glyphosate and genistein, the natural phytoestrogen in soybeans. This raised questions about the potential for GMO soybeans (which have been engineered with glyphosate) to increase risk of breast cancer.

“This study implied that the additive effect of glyphosate and genistein in postmenopausal women may induce cancer growth,” the researchers stated.

Glyphosate in Air and Rain

In addition to the study finding glyphosate in human urine, an earlier 2011 study discovered that glyphosate and its major degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), was present in the air and in rain. Researchers tested air particles and rain samples collected during two growing seasons in agricultural areas in Mississippi and Iowa. Rain was also collected in Indiana. The concentration of glyphosate in rain was greater than other herbicides.

A 2012 study also found the chemical in groundwater. Researchers took 140 groundwater samples from Catalonia, Spain, and found that 41 percent of them had levels at concerning quantities.

Now, Glyphosate in Breast Milk

For years, Roundup manufacturer Monsanto has stated that glyphosate is safe because the body excretes it. Monsanto Senior Science Fellow Dan Goldstein is reported as stating, “If ingested, glyphosate is excreted rapidly, does not accumulate in body fat or tissues, and does not undergo metabolism in humans. Rather, it is excreted unchanged in the urine.”

But according to a recent test by Moms Across America, that may not be the case. Together with Sustainable Pulse, they conducted a small test of 10 American women, and found high levels of glyphosate in three of them.

“The shocking results point to glyphosate levels building up in women’s bodies over a period of time,” the organization stated, “which has until now been refuted by both global regulatory authorities and the biotech industry.”

The levels discovered were 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They were also less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminate level currently set by the EPA.

In this same study, researchers analyzed 35 urine samples from across the U.S. Levels of glyphosate in urine were over 10 times higher than those reported in the 2013 German study mentioned above.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called on U.S. regulatory agencies, including the FDA, EPA, and USDA, to ban the use of glyphosate. There are plans for a follow-up study with a larger number of samples.

Roundup Linked to Other Health Issues

A 2013 article in Reuters noted that heavy use of Roundup may also be linked to other health problems, including Parkinson’s, infertility, and cancers. They based their report on a 2013 study that found glyphosate residues in food, “where it could enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”

The report added that the EPA is conducting a “standard registration review of glyphosate and has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if glyphosate use should be limited.”

Concerns are Increasing

We’re using more and more glyphosate. According to a 2012 study, “While current risk assessment science suggests that glyphosate is among the safer herbicides per hectare treated in terms of human health risks, both the frequency of human exposures and levels of exposure via food, drinking water, and air have no doubt risen in the U.S. in recent years. Two-thirds to 100% of air and rainfall samples tested in Mississippi and Iowa in 2007-2008 contained glyphosate.”

Study author Charles M. Benbrook goes on to say that as more genetically modified herbicide-resistant crops are planted, herbicide use is expected to increase, especially later in the season, which will likely lead to residues in milk, meat, and other animal products. Herbicide drift may expose people via the air, water, and crops grown near treated fields.

Glyphosate has also been found in studies to harm soil microbial communities in such a way that it increases plant vulnerability to pathogens, while reducing the availability of certain minerals and other nutrients in the soil. Heavy use of the herbicide can also reduce earthworm viability and water use efficiency.

Overall, since the introduction of genetically engineered crops, pesticide use has increased by an estimated 404 million pounds (about 7 percent), with the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds bound to trigger further increases.

What To Do

You can take some steps to protect yourself and your family from glyphosate residues, though with it present in the air and water it can be difficult to completely avoid it.

  • Avoid using Roundup on your lawns and gardens.
  • Consider taking a ginkgo biloba supplement—a 2011 animal study found that it was protective against glyphosate toxicity.
  • Choose organic whenever possible.
  • Use a good water filter.

Are you concerned about glyphosate? Please share your thoughts.

* * *

“OCA Calls on US Regulators to Ban Glyphosate Over Breast Milk Study,” Sustainable Pulse, April 20, 2014, http://sustainablepulse.com/2014/04/20/oca-calls-u-s-regulators-ban-glyphosate-breast-milk-pilot-study/#.U2lO5XZ6hFQ.

Crystal Gammon, “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells,” Scientific American, June 23, 2009, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/.

Friends of the Earth, “GMO and Monsanto: Glyphosate Weed Killer Found in Human Urine Across Europe,” Global Research, June 13, 2013, http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-and-monsanto-glyphosate-weed-killer-found-in-human-urine-across-europe/5338868.

Thongprakaisang S, et al., “Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors,” Food Chemi Toxicol 2013 Sep; 59:129-36, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170.

Chang FC, Simcik MF, Capel PD, “Occurrence and fate of the herbicide glyphosate and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid in the atmosphere,” Environ Toxicol Chem 2011 Mar; 30(3):548-55, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21128261.

Sanchis J, et al., “Determination of glyphosate in groundwater samples using an ultrasensitive immunoassay and confirmation by on-line solid-phase extraction followed by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry,” Anal Bioanal Chem 2012 Mar; 402(7):2335-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101424.

Zen Honeycutt, Henry Rowlands, “Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine, and Water,” Moms Across America, April 7, 2014, http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/glyphosate_testing_results.

Charles M. Benbrook, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S.—the first 16 years,” Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24, http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24.

Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases,” Entropy 2013; 15(4):1416-1463, http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416.

Cavusoglu K, et al., “Protective effect of Ginkgo biloba L. leaf extract against glyphosate toxicity in Swiss albino mice,” J Med Food, 2011 Oct; 14(10):1263-72, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21859351.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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