EPA Official Accused of having ‘Suspicious’ Role in Roundup Cancer Reports
As Monsanto is facing lawsuits alleging the company failed to warn about cancer risks with its Roundup herbicide, plaintiffs in the litigation are raising questions about whether an official from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped obscure the risks. Plaintiffs are saying that Jess Rowland, a retired EPA official, had a “highly suspicious” relationship with Monsanto. Rowland may have to testify in the upcoming Roundup cancer litigation.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are closely monitoring events in the Monsanto Roundup herbicide litigation. The firm, which has decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over environmental health risks, continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a Roundup lawsuit.
According to Bloomberg, there are over 20 lawsuits filed on behalf of plaintiffs who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Lawsuits allege that Monsanto knew about the risks but failed to warn consumers.
Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, was declared a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, in March 2015. The report said there was “strong” evidence suggesting that glyphosate can damage the genetic material of cells. IARC said the announcement was based on 1,000 studies.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has established a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for Roundup cancer lawsuits. Cases have been consolidated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria.
MDLs are created to streamline the legal process when there are a number of lawsuits with similar allegations. Transferring these cases to one court before one judge makes the process more efficient.
An EPA committee determined that there was inadequate evidence to determine whether glyphosate is carcinogenic. Court filings say that Rowland was chair of that committee, and resigned days after his report was leaked to the press, Bloomberg reports.
Judge Chhabria is leaning towards having Rowland testify in the litigation. “My reaction is when you consider the relevance of the EPA’s reports, and you consider their relevance to this litigation, it seems appropriate to take Jess Rowland’s deposition,” he said at a hearing in San Francisco.
Rowland worked as an EPA deputy division director. Plaintiffs allege that he was “straining, and often breaking, ethics and rules to benefit Monsanto’s business.”
Additionally, plaintiffs cite a letter from an former EPA scientist who said there is no scientific evidence for the EPA to categorize glyphosate as a “possible human carcinogen” as opposed to a “probable” carcinogen.
The 2013 letter, written by Marion Copley to Rowland, said “For once in your life, listen to me and don’t play your conniving games with the science to favor” the industry, according to Bloomberg.
Monsanto has contended that the IARC report findings are “erroneous”. The company claims that glyphosate is safe for humans and the environment when used according to the label instructions.
Many studies have been conducted assessing the health impact of glyphosate. The journal Entropy published a study in April 2013 showing that glyphosate residues remain on produce after the harvest and worsens the toxic effects of other chemicals. “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” researchers said.
The authors said that glyphosate residues can prevent the action of a specific protein responsible for protecting the body from hazardous substances. These residues are found in common food products, including wheat, soy, maize, and sugar. “Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Glyphosate was linked to B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in an 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis, using data from over nearly 30 years, to study non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in agricultural workers exposed to 80 different chemicals.
Other studies took place much earlier. A study published in the journal Cancer Research from the early 1990s found that organophosphates (glyphosate is a type of organophosphate) was associated with the substantial increase in cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rates of the cancer had risen 50 percent over the previous 15 years.
The journal Scientific Reports published a recent report establishing a causative link between Roundup and a liver disease known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. Researchers gave the animals a very low dose of glyphosate over the course of two years.
“The findings of our study are very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Antoniou on Kings College in London, according to Daily Mail UK. “Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”
Monsanto Fights California Cancer Listing, Court Disagrees
After the IARC released its report, the state of California sought to label glyphosate as a carcinogen under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65 (Prop 65).
In response, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the State of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The suit alleged that the Prop 65 cancer listing involved several constitutional violations. The California Superior Court, however, rejected the company’s arguments and sided with the state.
The court ruled that “there is no support for Monsanto’s conclusion that the OEHHA has unconstitutionally delegated its rulemaking authority to the IARC,”
“the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.”
Filing a Monsanto Roundup Herbicide Lawsuit
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