The evidence of harmful health effects from glyphosate is adding up. It's the most commonly used herbicide (weed killer) in the world, with nearly 300 million pounds of the pesticide (found in Roundup) applied each year in the United States! A recent study found that glyphosate is linked to preterm births in humans.
High levels of glyphosate and the glyphosate break-down product AMPA during late pregnancy (as measured in urine) are associated with preterm birth, according to recent research. This may be playing a role in why the United States has some of the highest rates of preterm birth rates among developed countries.
The study was conducted in Puerto Rico, where it is thought the high levels of environmental contamination (especially pesticides) plays a role in the especially high rates of preterm births (11.5%). Another study conducted in the United States (in rural Indiana with its high levels of glyphosate use on corn and soybean farms) also found shortened length of pregnancies.
Humans are exposed to glyphosate and glyphosate residues all sorts of ways, including in the foods we eat, soil, air, and water. Glyphosate is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops.
Besides preterm birth, glyphosate is linked to a number of other health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). Studies also link glyphosate to disruptions of the human gut microbiome, with a recent study finding that glyphosate kills some key beneficial gut microbes.
Bottom line: Eat as many organic foods as possible, especially when pregnant. This is because organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate.
From Futurity: Team Links Popular Weed killer Chemical to Preterm Births
Exposure to a chemical found in the weed killer Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides is significantly associated with preterm births, according to a new study.
The researchers found that the presence of the chemical in women’s urine in late pregnancy was linked to an increased risk for premature birth, while the association was inconsistent or null earlier in the pregnancy.
“It is well understood that infants who are born preterm have an increased risk for adverse long-term health effects, and the results of this study indicate the need for further investigation,” says first author Monica Silver, who conducted the study while a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Health..
Meeker says a couple of years ago he and his collaborators were driving near the northern coast of Puerto Rico, visiting local clinics and research collaborators when he noticed a sign advertising a commonly used herbicide on a corner, the lush greenery of the tropical island as a backdrop.
“I’m like, I’m wondering if we can measure its main chemical, glyphosate, in our participants. Maybe that’s high here,” Meeker says.
Twelve years ago, Meeker and collaborators established the PROTECT pregnancy and birth cohort to look into what environmental factors predicted preterm birth in Puerto Rico, which had been rising in the island for the last couple of decades.
Over time, the team—including dozens of collaborators in five clinics and two hospitals throughout the island—have studied a broad range of environmental factors, including maternal stress, chemicals, metals, etc.
After seeing the road sign, Meeker and his team searched the scientific literature and realized that while glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide in the world and that there’s mounting evidence of its negative effects on human health, very few studies focused on prenatal exposure and its impact on human reproductive and developmental outcomes.
The researchers decided to measure glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA)—one of the primary degradation products of the herbicide—by testing urine, since the chemicals are not metabolized by mammals. They tested the urine of 247 pregnant women at the first and third study visit of their pregnancy, at 16-20 weeks and 24-28 weeks.
Looking at preterm births (babies born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy) and comparing them to controls, the research team found that the odds of preterm birth were significantly elevated among women with higher urinary concentrations of glyphosate and AMPA at the third visit, while associations with levels at the first visit were largely null or inconsistent.