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Alleged link between Roundup Weed Killer and cancer sparks lawsuit

Posted May 31, 2019 5:00 a.m. EDT

Earlier this year, a jury awarded $289 million in punitive damages to a California man who claims that he got terminal cancer from the use of Roundup. (jay72274/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

People may not realize it, but every day we encounter chemicals, pollution, pesticides and more. Many cosmetic products, cleaning supplies and even foods we eat contain synthetic and processed ingredients.

Most products of this nature come with warning labels or explicit cautions informing people of the dangers and risks associated with their products. But sometimes they don't.

Recently, Roundup weed killer has made headlines for its possible link to cancer. Earlier this year, a jury awarded $289 million in punitive damages to a California man who claims he developed terminal cancer from the use of Roundup. In October, a judge ruled the settlement was too large and reduced the punitive damage to $39 million.

DeWayne Johnson, a former gardener and groundskeeper, frequently used Roundup for his job and came into direct contact with the product on his exposed skin. He was later diagnosed with lymphatic cancer at age 42 and claims that Monsanto — the chemical producer of Roundup and other products — was to blame.

He said the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was responsible for his cancer. Hundreds of fellow cancer patients are pursuing a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for the same reason.

"Roundup is used in home gardening and lawn care. It’s also used in large quantities by commercial farming enterprises," explained Whitney Butcher, an attorney at Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "What makes it so effective is also what makes it so dangerous. It has an active ingredient called glyphosate that makes it effective at killing weeds. Lawsuits also allege that it can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma in a number of different B-cell types of cancer."

Butcher is part of the Raleigh Roundup legal team at Whitley that is taking on cases against Monsanto.

Phil Miller, Monsanto's vice president for global regulatory and government affairs, said overwhelming evidence suggests "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer risk." However, the World Health Organization said glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic."

Beate Ritz, an epidemiologist at UCLA, said a 2017 National Institute of Health study that found "no association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkins lymphoma had major flaws." Conversely, Lorelei Mucci, a cancer epidemiologist at the Harvard T.J. Chan School of Public Health who was hired by Monsanto, said that the 2017 study was valid.

While opinions vary across the board, Butcher said they believe both the science and the history of affected cancer patients supports the link between Roundup and certain types of lymphoma.

"Roundup has been around since the 1970s. What’s come to light recently are studies where researchers have been looking at glyphosate and whether it has any adverse health consequences, and they discovered this non-Hodgkins lymphoma link," she said.

Butcher added that clients who have come to them with a potential case are usually befuddled as to why they developed cancer in the first place, as they do not have medical or family history of the disease.

It begs the question — while glyphosate is one of the most widely used pesticides across the globe, should people stop using Roundup and other products like it?

"I think it's too early to say one way or another, but people should definitely be wearing gloves and cover their mouths and avoid any other type of skin contact," Butcher said.

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.