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Elevated Levels of Glyphosate in U.S. Mothers’ Breast Milk

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2014) – Two citizen groups have taken the initial step toward debunking chemical-industry claims that glyphosate, the world’s most widely-used herbicide, does not bioaccumulate or metabolize in humans. The pilot study, conducted by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, looked at ten breast-milk samples and 35 urine samples from across America and 21 drinking water samples. The groups commissioned Microbe Inotech Labs to conduct the analysis, and what they found raises some serious questions about the prevalence and persistence of glyphosate.

In breast milk, three of the ten samples tested reveal high levels of glyphosate, meaning that the amount of glyphosate found is between 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l. The highest glyphosate level detected in a mother is from Florida (166 ug/l) and the other two mothers with “positive” results are from Virginia (76 ug/l) and Oregon (99 ug/l). While these levels fall under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 700 ug/l, across the pond in Europe this range of exposure is 1,000 higher than what is deemed safe.

From the 35 urine samples received from across the U.S., 13 samples are above the minimum detectable level. The three highest levels are all found in women, with the highest in Oregon (18.8 ug/l). Other positive results are found in samples from the states of California, Washington, Maryland, Colorado and Hawaii.

Drinking water results reveal that 13 of the 21 samples contain glyphosate levels of between 0.085ug/l and 0.33u/l. While these levels come in much lower than the breast milk and urine samples and U.S. drinking water standards, they still add to the alarm when compared to maximum allowable European drinking water standards of 0.1ug/l.

Putting the Pilot Study in Context

The pilot study was conducted for both personal and practical reasons. As explained by Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Director of Moms Across America, “When I was told by several doctors and labs that I could not test my own or my children’s urine for the most widely used herbicide in the world over a year ago, I became determined to find a way. Parents and citizens deserve the ability to be able to take care of themselves and their families by finding out if herbicides could be impacting their health.” Couple this with the fact that no glyphosate limits exist for breast milk anywhere in the world, and it became clear that something had to be done to get the attention of regulators and look behind the curtain of industry-provided evaluations.

Groups responsible for the study are not arguing that the test results constitute peer-reviewed scientific data warranting an immediate cancellation of glyphosate use, but they are calling for increased scrutiny of industry-backed claims concerning glyphosate’s alleged rapid excretion rates and non-accumulative nature. Ms. Honeycutt adds, “The purpose of this glyphosate testing project is to shed light upon the presence of glyphosate in our water, children’s bodies and mother’s breast milk, hopefully inspiring further scientific studies to support the world in being a healthy, safe place to live.”

As Angelika Hilbeck, PhD, senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, observed, “If confirmed in a full investigation, it seems that glyphosate has become a ubiquitous chemical in terms of presence and persistence. This data also offers a first indication of potential accumulation in the human body, giving newborns a substantial dose of synthetic chemicals as a ‘gift’ for their start into life, with unknown consequences. This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT. It seems we either did not learn, or we have forgotten, our lessons from Rachel Carson!”

By comparing the results to a study previously conducted in Europe, which raised alarms to the presence of glyphosate in urine from people in 18 countries across Europe, and highlighting the discrepancy between U.S. and European safety standards, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse also hoped to draw attention to America’s likely increased risks because of its staunch support of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and presence of GE food products in the American food supply, which in turn increases the amount of glyphosate used on crops and in the environment.

Glyphosate Has No Place in Breast Milk or Anywhere Else

Beyond Pesticides has long argued to U.S. regulators that glyphosate poses significant risks to health and the environment, even without this added probability of excessive exposure to infants through breast milk. Traditional risk assessment protocols fail to evaluate a full range of adverse impacts, particularly with regard to infants and children—often the most vulnerable to pesticides. Now more than ever, regulators at both the state and federal levels need to reevaluate the full spectrum of risks and rethink the rubber-stamping approach to GE crop and pesticide approval and allowance in the food supply. As citizens across America fight to gain access to basic information concerning GE crop presence in their food, we urge consumers everywhere to call on regulators for change and support organic systems that prohibit these problematic and dangerous GE products and pesticides from being labeled organic.

Source: Ecologist, Moms Across America, Sustainable Pulse

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


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