RoundUp: A killer weedkiller?

This year’s key news for our Grounds Maintenance and Property Management customers has been the acknowledgment that some weed killing agents may actually be both toxic and carcinogenic. In a landmark court ruling in the United States, a gentleman with end-stage cancer took the manufacturers of the weed killer ‘RoundUp’ to trial, over allegations that prolonged exposure to the chemical agent was directly responsible for his failing health.

The trial came to the attention of media globally, causing widespread concern that any individuals who work with the key ingredients which make RoundUp effective in killing weeds may be at risk of ill-health. Lee Johnson, a groundskeeper working across a Californian school district, mixed and sprayed gallons of RoundUp consistently over the course of his role. In 2014, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, with his oncologist suggesting that he may have just six months to live. However, Mr. Johnson was able to testify on behalf of the prosecution, presenting a clear case which threatened to prompt a global revision to the use of the chemical.

The chemical at the heart of the controversy

RoundUp’s key ingredient is a herbicide called Glyphosate, which was first approved for widespread use in 1974. Since that time, Glyphosate has become the number one choice for gardeners globally, due to the fast-acting and thorough ability it has to clear and contain weeds, permanently.

Manufacturers Monsanto are no strangers to controversy, and often face litigation from concerned customers fearing that their products are unethical, or not as safe as they are marketed to be. However, the organisation is blunt in its refutation of the allegations made against it, with a spokesperson stating: “Every major regulatory agency charged with answering the question has, with the benefit of all the available primary data, concluded that glyphosate is not likely to pose risks of carcinogenicity”.

With the world watching the outcome and using the trial to serve as either a reassurance or a warning, the case caused controversy when the Jury found in Mr. Johnson’s favour, awarding him $289 million in damages. However, scientists are still debating the carcinogenicity of Glyphosate, with academics on both sides of the argument battling over if the chemical is toxic, and whether or not it should be banned from use as a weed killing agent. Regardless, the jury verdict for Mr. Johnson’s trial may potentially leave Monsanto at risk of being found culpable in further compensation cases as Grounds workers exposed to the chemical who subsequently develop cancer, file claims.

Keeping safe using the correct protection

Anyone in the Grounds Maintenance, Landscaping and Property Management sectors will be aware of the potential hazards inherent in use of chemical agents to control weeds. However, it is always sensible to review the issue periodically in light of your PPE and Workwear products, to ensure that you and your team are still staying safe and compliant as new chemicals enter the market.

Take a look at our extensive range of coverall, face protectors, gloves and masks to ensure that regardless of the court judgment on RoundUp, you are protected from the potential risk of carcinogens in your job.