Roundup in drinking water

The exposure to Roundup, through food and drinking water, is so pervasive that the popular herbicide is showing up in breast milk, urine and blood samples of individuals; and even makes it into the womb – triggering birth abnormalities and development disorders.

Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, is the world’s most widely used herbicide.

For years, Monsanto and the regulatory agencies have been claiming that Roundup doesn’t pose any health risks as: the body excretes it rapidly, it is not accumulated in the body tissues and it is not metabolized by the body. But the studies show otherwise.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup as “probable carcinogen”. [1]. This revelation is not new, as in 1985 the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States labelled glyphosate as a Class C carcinogen, one which shows “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.”

How does Roundup get into our drinking water?

Genetically modified crops are becoming increasingly resistant to traditional herbicides. Consequently, farmers are now compelled to spray higher amounts of weed-killing chemicals to generate more yields and be profitable. Not surprisingly, these harsh chemicals are fast making way into our ecosystem – infiltrating soil, animal feed, food produce and water systems.

In a small, pilot study, conducted by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, 35 urine samples and 21 drinking water samples collected from regions across the US were measured. The study found that:

  • 70% of the drinking water in American households contain Roundup. The amount of glyphosate allowed in American drinking water is way higher than what it should be. Interestingly, the legal limit allowed by the FDA in the United States is 0.4 mg/L, while in Europe it only one-fourth of this amount.
  • Americans had 10 times higher glyphosate levels in their urine than Europeans.
  • The concentrations of glyphosate in breast milk was found to be at 760 to 1600 times higher than limits allowed by the European Drinking Water Directive.

Health Risks

Several studies indicate that Roundup can damage DNA [2], cause cancer, disrupt the endocrine system (hormonal pathways), and cause damage to liver and kidney. In fact, Roundup is considered many times more dangerous than glyphosate alone. It is because when glyphosate combines with other inactive ingredients of Roundup, such as surfactants, it increases the associated dangers.Let’s find out.

Liver and Kidney damage

  • A 2-year study published in Environmental Health found that small exposure to Roundup herbicide, caused kidney and liver damage in rats. The study authors concluded that chronic exposure to Glyphosate-based herbicides can cause liver and kidney damage “with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.” [2]
  • In another study, Sri Lankan scientists, in collaboration with researchers at California State University, revealed that high levels of glyphosate exposure may be the trigger behind the chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka. Here, researchers show evidence that glyphosate has unique metal-binding properties and chelates to toxic metals such as arsenic, which then enters into the bloodstream causing kidney failures. [3]

Breast Cancer

  • A study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology implicated glyphosate with increased risk of breast cancer in humans. Glyphosate affects the transcription of estrogen receptors – increasing the activity of hormone estrogen. [4]

Birth Abnormalities

  • For the past few decades, scientists have observed an increase in birth defects, particularly of the brain and skull, in geographic regions where glyphosate-based herbicides are common. To test the theory that herbicides such as Roundup are the causal factor, frog embryos were incubated with a commercially available glyphosate-based herbicide at a dilution of 1/5,000 of its commercial strength.

These embryos showed abnormal neurological development, as well as deformations in the cranial cartilage. When embryos were injected with pure glyphosate, similar observations were recorded. Further analysis revealed that glyphosate increased retinoic acid, which can disrupt normal embryonic development. These findings raise questions about the safety of herbicides among pregnant farm workers. [5]

Mental Health

  • A 2015 study published in Scientific Research implicated glyphosate with increased risk of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism and depression [6]. The study further revealed that glyphosate achieves this by upsetting the balance in gut flora (causing dysbiosis).

How does it happen?

Gut dysbiosis causes overgrowth of Clostridium difficile – that produces p-cresol as a by-product. p-cresol increases the uptake of aluminium. Both glyphosate and aluminium inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes – membrane proteins responsible for neurotransmitters synthesis and breakdown, drug metabolism, vitamin D metabolism and cholesterol synthesis. Another especially important role of cytochrome P450 is to breakdown environmental toxins that we are exposed to on a day to day basis.

As a result, the body is unable to effectively rid itself of residues such as heavy metals and pesticides. This phenomenon can be linked with disorders such as Alzheimers disease, depression, and autism, among others; particularly when the gut microbiome is compromised and P450 enzymatic pathway is disrupted.

  1. Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. GMOs. Herbicides, and Public Health. The New England Journal of Medicine.
  2. Koller V1, Fürhacker M, Nersesyan A, Mišík M, Eisenbauer M, Knasmueller S. Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells. Arch Toxicol. 2012 May;86(5):805-13. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0804-8. Epub 2012 Feb 14.
  3. Robin Mesnage, Matthew Arno, Manuela Costanzo, Manuela Malatesta, Gilles-Eric Séralini and Michael N. Antoniou. Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure. Enviornmentral Health
  4. Channa Jayasumana, Sarath Gunatilake , and Priyantha Senanayake. Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?. International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147; doi:10.3390/ijerph110202125.
  5. Thongprakaisang S, Thiantanawat A, Rangkadilok N, Suriyo T, Satayavivad J. Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food and Chemical Toxicology (an international journal publish for the British Industrial Biological Research Association). 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10.
  6. Alejandra Paganelli, Victoria Gnazzo, Helena Acosta, Silvia L. López, and Andrés E. Carrasco. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling. Chemical Research in Toxicology.
  7. 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; doi:10.3390/e15041416.