A jury in San Francisco, California, has ordered Monsanto to pay a man $289 million after they found that Monsanto’s weed killers, including Roundup, gave him cancer.
Dewayne Johnson was a former school groundskeeper, who applied Roundup weedkiller around 20-30 times a year while working for a school district close to San Francisco. During this time, he was soaked with the product into two separate accidents. The first happened in 2012.
In 2014, Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that begins in white blood cells and occurs when the body produces too many abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. Symptoms can include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, weight loss, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Treatment often involves chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
This is the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging that glyphosate-based weedkillers cause cancer. More than 5,000 similar lawsuits are awaiting trial in the United States.
Johnson originally sought $412 million in damages, but was awarded $39 million for personal losses and $250 million as a punishment to Monsanto. Before ruling in favor of Dewayne Johnson, who worked as a school groundskeeper and regularly used Roundup, the jury deliberated for two and a half days. In the end, the jury had determined that Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was at least partly caused by glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Roundup weed killer. As such, Johnson won his case in the Monsanto Roundup lawsuit, sparking a wave of many other lawsuits against Monsanto in regards to the weed killer.
What Caused the Monsanto Roundup Lawsuits?
Just like Johnson, many individuals reported being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup. While working as a groundskeeper for a school district close to San Francisco, Johnson applied Roundup weedkiller 20 to 30 times per year. In 2012, Johnson was severely exposed to the weed killer and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma just two years later after being soaked in Roundup on two separate incidents. Johnson acquired lesions on 80% of his body and was granted an expedited trial after doctors reported he was near death. Like Johnson, 800 patients in the previous year filed lawsuits against Monsanto, claiming that Roundup gave them cancer.
After the verdict of Johnson’s case, Monsanto will potentially have to defend itself against a total of 4,000 lawsuits similar to that of Johnson’s. The two biggest issues with Monsanto and Roundup, which eventually lead to Johnson’s victory, were whether or not Roundup can cause cancer and if Monsanto made those risks known. The jury sided with Johnson in regards to both issues. Roundup’s ingredient glyphosate, which has been regarded as a cancer-causing agent in some studies, and Monsanto not informing individuals of the potential risks of cancer when using Roundup have been two recurrent themes in the legal cases.
Does Roundup Cause Cancer?
Monsanto continues to deny that their product causes cancer, however, multiple lawsuits assert that Monsanto has known for more than 30 years that the use of Roundup can cause cancers.
While there isn’t conclusive evidence that glyphosate causes cancer, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that exposure to Roundup can cause cancer. The studies discovered that the rate of workers with non-Hodgkin lymphoma was higher in those exposed to Roundup than those who were not.
Cancers that can develop due to exposure to glyphosate include breast, brain, lung, blood and prostate cancer. Glyphosate has also been known to cause other health problems including kidney disease, liver damage, diabetes, ALD, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and respiratory disorders. Glyphosate had even been added to a list of cancer causing chemicals by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Monsanto attempted to sue the office but lost and currently, they continue to state that the 800 scientific studies and reviews and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and regulatory authorities support that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
Nevertheless, many individuals who were exposed to Roundup claim the weed killer caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the most common type of cancer reportedly linked to the weed killer. However, the ingredient glyphosate found in Roundup has also been linked to other types of cancer including leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Other types of cancer that Roundup has been linked to, but on a lesser scale, include brain, breast, prostate, lung, and blood cancer. Hundreds of other lawsuits claiming that Roundup causes cancer have been approved and are awaiting trial, following the outcome of Johnson’s trial.
What is Roundup?
Marketed since 1974, Roundup is an herbicide that includes glyphosate, which Monsanto determined could be used in its herbicides in 1970. Each year farmers, commercial nurseries, gardeners and groundskeepers of parks and golf courses have used about 250 million pounds of glyphosate.