In today’s world, it sometimes feels like every product around has the potential to kill you. From radioactive microwaves to cancer-inducing cell phones, it’s easy to dismiss these worries as overreaching. However, there is reason to believe that some compounds are slipping under the radar that are far more dangerous for your health than you like to think. Glyphosate, a common ingredient in many herbicides, is one to be aware of.
What Is Glyphosate?
Used as the active ingredient in many herbicides, glyphosate is found in over 750 agricultural products in the United States, even though it is banned in 13 countries worldwide. The compound is famously used in Roundup, the Monsanto-brand herbicide that’s the most common in the world.
Glyphosate works as a non-selective herbicide, which means that it kills just about every plant that’s exposed to it. It works by halting the functioning of the shikimic acid pathway, which plants use to produce proteins and grow. By blocking the enzyme reaction, it causes plants to sicken and die quickly.
The compound first entered the market in 1974 as a replacement for DDT, an agricultural pesticide that was banned two years earlier because of its nasty habit of accumulating in fatty tissues of the animals and compromising their reproductive abilities. Even so, Glyphosate didn’t achieve commercial success until 1987 when Monsanto began selling genetically-modified seeds meant to survive getting sprayed with Roundup. This caused the herbicide to skyrocket in popularity, and today almost all conventionally grown corn, soy, and cotton in the United States are sprayed with glyphosate at some point in the production process.
Is Glyphosate Dangerous?
Though glyphosate has been used for decades without raising many red flags, the compound has recently gained some notoriety. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and the US Environmental Protection Agency later confirmed that stance.
Saying that, there’s still little consensus about glyphosate’s overall risk or the concentration at which it becomes dangerous. This is partly because Monsanto isn’t required by law to release Roundup’s full ingredients list. While they need to specify the levels of active ingredients, inactive ones need only to be listed.
18 Health Effects Of Glyphosate Exposure
Though there’s still little scientific consensus about the dangers of glyphosate, it’s clear that the compound causes health problems for many people. As glyphosate works by blocking the proteins necessary for plant growth, it has the potential to affect the physiological functioning in humans too. Below are 18 health problems that have been linked to glyphosate exposure.
There’s evidence that glyphosate can interfere with the way your body processes insulin, which elevates your blood sugar levels and potentially increases your risk of developing diabetes. Likewise, low levels of testosterone can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, and rodent-based studies with Roundup showed the herbicide succeeded in lowering testosterone production at the onset of puberty.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
Lab experiments show that glyphosate can trigger the same amount of oxidative stress and cell death as what’s observed with Alzheimer’s disease. There are questions about correlation verse causation here, but there’s no question that there’s a link between the compound and the neurological condition.
3. Hurts Gut Bacteria
If you ingest glyphosate, it can mess with your gut health by disrupting the digestive biome and killing off healthy bacteria. This makes it a challenge for your body to absorb nutrients in your food, and it can create opportunities for pathogens to establish themselves and trigger digestive conditions.
4. Weaker Immune System
A healthy digestive system is the foundation of a robust immune system. Glyphosate can mess up the bacterial balances in your gut, which weakens the immune system in unexpected ways.
Based on the evidence in certain farming communities, there seems to be a correlation between Roundup exposure and rates of ADHD (attention deficit disorder), primarily due to the compound’s potential to disrupt hormone functioning.
6. Kidney Disease
Reports of soaring rates of kidney failure in agricultural communities in Central America and India might be liked to glyphosate. There’s evidence that it forms metals that are toxic to the kidneys when mixed in hard water.
Because glyphosate exposure disrupts the chemical process that impacts serotonin production, the compound reduces the amount of ‘feel-good’ compounds in your brain and can negatively affect your mood, appetite and sleep levels.
8. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Glyphosate is known for inducing tryptophan deficiency, which can lead to inflammatory bowel disease and impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients due to symptoms like inflammation, bleeding or diarrhea.
9. Birth Defects
Pregnant women who are exposed to glyphosate might put their unborn children at risk of birth defects. Research shows that women who live within 1,000 meters of where glyphosate is regularly sprayed have a higher chance of having children with neural tube defects that affect brain and skull development. Likewise, animal studies show that glyphosate exposure can lead to reproductive problems like delayed puberty and lower sperm counts.
10. Reduced Liver Functioning
Glyphosate can block the CYP enzyme pathways in the liver, which is a pathway necessary for detoxifying chemicals and processing vitamin D so your system can utilize it. This often succeeds in making other compounds more toxic.
11. Higher Risk Of Cancer
There’s mounting evidence that the exposure to glyphosate can increase your risk of cancer. For example, some farming communities in South America report cancer rates that are twice as high as national averages. This is likely due to the compound’s ability to damage DNA. There’s also evidence that parent exposure to Roundup before their children were born increased their chances of developing brain cancer.
12. Gluten Intolerance
Research with fish shows that glyphosate exposure can lead them to develop digestive problems similar to celiac disease. The evidence isn’t concrete that humans can experience the same impacts, but some people might be more susceptible than others.
13. Heart disease
Because glyphosate disrupts the body’s use of enzymes, it can trigger lysosomal dysfunction, which is a factor in heart failure and cardiovascular disease.
14. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
There’s evidence that dealing with irritable bowel syndrome can increase your risk of this neurological disease, and glyphosate might be the causal factor between the two conditions. This is because glyphosate can induce IBS symptoms and trigger immune reactions that affect nerve health.
While the evidence is still forthcoming, there are numerous biological effects caused by glyphosate that is also linked to a higher risk of developing autism. One concern is that glyphosate can promote the accumulation of aluminum in the brain, which is a leading cause of autism in the United States.
16. Respiratory Illnesses
Surveys of health in rural areas show that they often show a higher rate of chronic respiratory problems, which might be linked to glyphosate exposure.
Though it might seem unexpected, herbicide exposure might contribute to your weight loss problems. Research shows that the growing rates of obesity in America have kept pace with increasing herbicide exposure, and experiments with bacteria showed that the compound could trigger weight gain. In the same way, you’re more susceptible to the effects of glyphosate if you’re overweight, as you have more fatty tissue to store the compound in.
18. Parkinson’s Disease
Pesticides and herbicides might be a contributing factor in brain-damaging diseases like Parkinson’s, as the research indicates that glyphosate causes cell death in similar ways to the condition.
Have You Been Exposed To Glyphosate? (The Answer Might Surprise You)
Do you consider yourself safe from this obscure agricultural chemical? It’s time to think again. Traces of glyphosate have been found in the urine of nine out of ten people tested in the United States, a level that’s four times as high as Europe. Worst of all, concentrations seem to be highest in children.
Thankfully, walking through a cornfield isn’t likely to up your exposure to unsafe levels if it hasn’t been treated recently. Glyphosate can’t pass through your skin, and you tend to excrete it quickly once eaten. The risk isn’t substantial for pure glyphosate, but rather with products that utilize it with other compounds to improve its permeability to plants, and consequently your skin.
If you do become exposed to glyphosate, common side effects include skin and eye irritation as well as throat, lungs, and nose problems. If you accidentally swallow it, expect to experience nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
5 Ways To Reduce Your Exposure To Glyphosate
If you’re concerned about your exposure level to glyphosate, there are steps you can take to put yourself at less risk. Follow the tips below to cut down your chances of contamination.
1. Stay Away From Garden Herbicides
When it’s time to tend your backyard plants, pay careful attention to the products you use. Avoid Roundup, and instead make a homemade weed killer by combining equal parts vinegar and lemon juice. Check out our article on how to get rid of garden weeds organically for more tips.
2. Buy Organic (When Possible)
Any plant sprayed with glyphosate has the risk of passing it on to you if you eat it, even if you wash it beforehand. Choosing organic is the best option to ensure your meals haven’t absorbed the herbicide in their tissues.
3. Get Outside
While it might seem unrelated, regular sun exposure can help your skin detoxify from its glyphosate buildup. The sulfate your skin synthesizes when you spend time outdoors without sunscreen (preferably between 10 am and 2 pm) enables you to reduce your buildup.
4. Buy Pastured Meat
Conventionally raised animal products are often fed a grain-based diet, which increases their risk of having glyphosate build up in their fatty tissues. You can reduce your exposure risk by sticking to grass-fed meat instead.
5. Avoid Farmland Once It’s Sprayed
Spending time around farmland after an herbicide spray day puts you at risk of breathing in a mess of compounds. Consider staying away from fields on the days you know they will be sprayed, and take care to wash your hands before eating if you come into contact with any exposed plant material.
Glyphosate & Your Health: The Connection To Understand
There’s reason to be wary of the toxic compounds regularly sprayed on the food we eat, but there are ways you that you can lower your risk. Be aware of the risk factors and choose glyphosate-free food as much as you can, and your body will thank you in the long run.