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Urine sample study finds industrial toxin in adolescents: 'There is a lot of exposure'

The impacts of these herbicides go far beyond these kids in Ecuador.

The impacts of these herbicides go far beyond these kids in Ecuador.

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study revealed that a shockingly high number of adolescents in an agricultural area of Ecuador have high concentrations of glyphosate — the active ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup — in their urine. Even more concerning is the link to neurobehavioral issues.  

What happened? 

A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives examined over 500 kids aged 11-17 in Pedro Moncayo, Ecuador. The researchers found that 98% of the kids had high concentrations of glyphosate, and 66.2% had the herbicide 2,4-D. 

According to a report from Salon, the scientists discovered that both herbicides negatively impacted the kids' neurobehavioral performance. Glyphosate was connected to lower scores in social perception, while 2, 4-D was linked to problems with memory and learning, language and attention, and inhibitory control. 

Why is glyphosate so concerning? 

Other than the obvious concern regarding the results of this study, the impacts of these herbicides go far beyond these kids in Ecuador and even neurobehavioral problems. 

According to another Salon report, the CDC found that 80% of Americans tested positive for glyphosate. Salon references another study by the Environmental Working Group in 2019, which revealed concerning levels of glyphosate in 17 of 21 oat-based cereals and snacks. 

While there has been some controversy surrounding the adverse health effects of the chemical weed killer, there is a significant amount of evidence showing a connection between exposure to glyphosate and increased risk of cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. 

There are also significant environmental impacts. 

Roundup is sprayed over crops genetically engineered to be resistant to the weed killer, resulting in massive fields where nothing can grow except one type of plant. It also kills beneficial soil organisms. Researchers found that algae exposed to glyphosate built up immunity to the chemical, but it came at the cost of the algae's diversity

All of glyphosate's effects result in a loss of biodiversity, which has devastating impacts on ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to our rapidly changing climate. It also makes life difficult for pollinators, like bees, that are crucial to our food supply

"There is a lot of exposure to Roundup in the environment as well, in everything that we actually do, so there is a huge ubiquitous prevalence," researcher Dr. Chadi Nabhan said in the Salon article.

What's being done about it?

There's enough evidence linking Roundup to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that Monsanto — the company that developed the weed killer before it was purchased by Bayer — has settled over 100,000 Roundup lawsuits. 

According to Forbes, the now-defunct company has paid out over $11 billion to individuals who developed cancer or other serious conditions after extensive exposure to Roundup. In 2023, Bayer committed to replacing "its glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential Lawn & Garden market with new formulations that rely on alternative active ingredients."

As for what you can do, it's important to vote for representatives who will regulate harmful chemicals like glyphosate and chlormequat, which is a little-known pesticide that the EPA is considering allowing for use on food crops in the U.S. Elected officials can also hold companies like Monsanto accountable when they keep health risks hidden from the public.

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