Secret files suggest chemical giant feared weedkiller’s link to Parkinson’s disease

For decades, the Swiss chemical giant Syngenta has manufactured and marketed a widely used weedkilling chemical called paraquat, and for much of that time the company has been dealing with external concerns that long-term exposure to the chemical may be a cause of the incurable brain ailment known as Parkinson’s disease.

Syngenta has repeatedly told customers and regulators that scientific research does not prove a connection between its weedkiller and the disease, insisting that the chemical does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier, and does not affect brain cells in ways that cause Parkinson’s.

But a cache of internal corporate documents dating back to the 1950s reviewed by the Guardian suggests that the public narrative put forward by Syngenta and the corporate entities that preceded it has at times contradicted the company’s own research and knowledge.

And though the documents reviewed do not show that Syngenta’s scientists and executives accepted and believed that paraquat can cause Parkinson’s, they do show a corporate focus on strategies to protect product sales, refute external scientific research and influence regulators.

In one defensive tactic, the documents indicate that the company worked behind the scenes to try to keep a highly regarded scientist from sitting on an advisory panel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency is the chief US regulator for paraquat and other pesticides. Company officials wanted to make sure the efforts could not be traced back to Syngenta, the documents show.

And the documents show that insiders feared they could face legal liability for long-term, chronic effects of paraquat as long ago as 1975. One company scientist called the situation “a quite terrible problem” for which “some plan could be made”.

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Popular weedkiller Roundup on trial again as cancer victims demand justice

Cancer has taken an unrelenting toll on 72-year-old Mike Langford. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in 2007 he suffered through five recurrences despite multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Now he struggles with chemo-related neuropathy in his arms and legs, and new tests show the cancer is back.

Langford blames his cancer on his longtime use of the popular weed-killing product Roundup, which he applied countless times over decades using a backpack sprayer around his five-acre California property and a vacation lake home. He alleges in a lawsuit that Monsanto, the longtime Roundup maker now owned by the German company Bayer AG, should have warned of a cancer risk.

Last month, a San Francisco judge ruled that Langford’s health is so poor that he is entitled to a speedy hearing of his claims. A trial is set for 7 November in San Francisco county superior court.

“I’ve had it so long. I’m very angry,” Langford told the Guardian a day after doctors biopsied an enlarged lymph node. “The future doesn’t look too terribly promising,” he said, trying to hold back tears. He learned last week that the preliminary biopsy results show a return of NHL.

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Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples

More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called “disturbing” and “concerning”.

The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18.

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Tensions are high in Kansas, where a ballot initiative could undo state protection for abortion rights.

Even before the Supreme Court decision on Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade, Kansas had become a haven for women seeking abortions from surrounding states where the procedure was severely restricted or outlawed. But that could soon change. A ballot initiative slated for an Aug. 2 primary vote would strip away that protection by amending the state’s Constitution with a provision titled “The Value Them Both Amendment.”

Kansas currently has five clinics that provide abortion services, which have drawn patients from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to Emily Wales, the president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

On Saturday, abortion rights protesters gathered at a clinic in Overland Park, Kan., armed with signs, microphones and loudspeakers, to show their support for the women making their way to the clinic doors. Close by, abortion protesters took up their positions, chanting Bible verses and begging women not to “murder your baby.”

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Court finds multiple flaws in EPA’s glyphosate cancer risk assessment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to follow established guidelines for determining cancer risk, ignored important studies, and discounted expert advice from a scientific advisory panel in officially declaring that the weed killer glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic,” a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion saying the agency’s 2020 assessment of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, was flawed in many ways. The EPA applied “inconsistent reasoning” in finding that the chemical does not pose “any reasonable risk to man or the environment,” the panel determined.

The court vacated the human health portion of the EPA’s glyphosate assessment and said the agency needed to apply “further consideration” to evidence. The 9th Circuit also said the agency violated the Endangered Species Act in its assessment.

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Tornado Tears Through City in Kansas, Causing Extensive Damage

On Friday night, Lindsay Triplett and her family in Andover, Kan., received emergency alarms on their cellphones. Minutes later, the roof of their home vanished.

Ms. Triplett and her family were safe. She had taken shelter in her family’s basement with her husband, four daughters and the family’s Labrador retriever, huddling under a staircase. But when they emerged, their home was in ruins, in the wake of devastation left by the tornado that hit the city directly.

“The house won’t be salvageable,” Ms. Triplett said on Saturday. “I am trying to remain calm for the girls. But really, what do we do now?”

The tornado in Andover, a city of nearly 15,000 outside Wichita, uprooted trees, heaved cars into buildings and ripped through houses and power lines. No fatalities stemming directly from the impact were reported by the authorities. But up to 1,000 structures in Andover were affected by the tornado, officials said.

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A worldwide public health threat’: Rob Bilott on his 20-year fight against forever chemicals

Last month, an Ohio court certified a class action lawsuit brought by lawyer Rob Bilott that would cover 7 million people – and at some point possibly everyone living in the United States – who have been exposed to certain hazardous “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

The chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and a range of other human health problems. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, persisting indefinitely in the environment.

Two types of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – have been found to be so harmful that they are being phased out of use. In addition to US multi-national company 3M, the class action lawsuit names 10 other companies that produce PFAS, which are used to make cookware, food packaging, water-resistant fabrics, firefighting foam and other products. The Biden administration last year pledged to undertake a massive PFAS mitigation strategy at a cost of more than $10bn.

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‘We want it back to what it was’: the US village blighted by toxic waste

For a visitor to this rural part of eastern Nebraska, the crisp air, blue skies and stretch of seemingly endless farm fields appear as unspoiled landscape. But for the people who live here, there is no denying this is an environmental disaster that researchers fear may affect generations to come.

It has been just over a year since state regulators stepped in to close down the AltEn LLC ethanol plant on the outskirts of Mead, Nebraska, a small village of about 500 people near Omaha. The plant was found to be the source of huge quantities of toxic, pesticide-laced waste, which was stored in lagoons and piled into hills of a putrid lime-green mash. That waste then was accidentally spilled and intentionally spread throughout the area, including on to farm fields and into waterways that provide drinking water for people and wildlife several miles downstream.

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St. Louis Roundup trial is off; parties settle

Just days before the scheduled start of what would have been the first Roundup cancer trial to take place in St. Louis, the former hometown of Monsanto Co., the three plaintiffs in the case on Wednesday agreed to accept a settlement offer from the maker of Roundup herbicide, which the plaintiffs alleged caused them each to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The judge had agreed to allow Courtroom View Network to livestream the trial.

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Biologist who was fired after opposing glyphosate forestry use gets day in court

It’s been nearly three years since Canadian wildlife biologist Rod Cumberland was fired from a teaching role after expressing concerns about the use of the chemical glyphosate in New Brunswick forests and the impacts on the deer population.

At the time, the Maritime College of Forest Technology gave various reasons for dismissing Cumberland in June 2019, but denies his worries about glyphosate were among the reasons.

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