“What is going on?” Pregnant women living near farm fields show increased weed killing chemical in their urine

Pregnant women living near farm fields show “significantly” increased concentrations of glyphosate weed killer in their urine during seasonal periods when farmers are spraying their fields with the pesticide, according to a new scientific paper published Wednesday.

The research team said the findings were concerning, given recent studies that have associated gestational exposure to glyphosate with reduced fetal growth and other fetal problems.

“If the developing fetus is especially vulnerable to glyphosate, it is critical to understand the magnitude and sources of exposure during this critical developmental period,” the new paper states. The authors include researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; King’s College London; Boise State University; and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The results were also considered somewhat surprising because none of the women studied worked with glyphosate or other pesticides or had a household member who worked with pesticides, said Cynthia Curl, associate professor at Boise State and lead author on the paper.

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Syngenta paraquat secrets featured on ABC News

Decades of secret Syngenta documents revealed by The New Lede were the focus of an ABC News Nightline segment this week, highlighting how the company has worked to hide the risks of its paraquat herbicide.

The New Lede, in a co-publishing arrangement with The Guardian, first revealed a trove of internal Syngenta documents in October 2022 and followed up in subsequent stories, exposing years of corporate efforts to cover up evidence that paraquat can cause Parkinson’s disease.

The documents obtained by The New Lede additionally showed evidence of efforts to manipulate and influence the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published scientific literature. The documents also show how the company worked to mislead the public about paraquat dangers.

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Hazardous chemical accidents happening with “alarming frequency”

Hazardous chemical accidents are occurring almost daily, on average, in the United States, exposing people to dangerous toxins through fires, explosions, leaks, spills and other releases, according to a new analysis by nonprofit researchers.

The report, which was prepared by Coming Clean, in conjunction with a network of environmental and economic justice organizations in the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, documents what it calls an “alarming frequency” of accidents, and comes a month before US regulators are expected to release final rules aimed at preventing such incidents.  It comes one day after an explosion and fire at a Texas petroleum processing plant injured at least one plant worker and triggered evacuations and stay-at-home-orders to community residents.

The report is in line with a prior analysis revealed in The New Lede in February, which reported such incidents were happening approximately every two days. The new report shows 829 hazardous chemical incidents from Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 15 of this year, or roughly one every 1.2 days. The report includes revised higher numbers for 2021 not included in the February analysis that reflect incidents at a number of Texas facilities amid extreme cold temperatures in February of that year. The research is based on capturing incidents of chemical spills via monitoring news sources; researchers say the figures should be regarded as conservative because not all of them are reported in the news media.

The majority of the incidents tallied are connected to the fossil fuel industry, including the use, transport, production and disposal of fossil fuels and fossil fuel products, according to the report, which is accompanied by a searchable database of chemical incidents.

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Revealed: The secret push to bury a weedkiller’s link to Parkinson’s disease

Internal documents from chemical giant Syngenta reveal tactics to sponsor sympathetic scientific papers and mislead regulators about unfavorable research

The global chemical giant Syngenta has sought to secretly influence scientific research regarding links between its top-selling weedkiller and Parkinson’s, internal corporate documents show.

While numerous independent researchers have determined that the weedkiller, paraquat, can cause neurological changes that are hallmarks of Parkinson’s, Syngenta has always maintained that the evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease is “fragmentary” and “inconclusive”.

But the scientific record they point to as proof of paraquat’s safety is the same one that Syngenta officials, scientists and lawyers in the US and the UK have worked over decades to create and at times, covertly manipulate, according to the trove of internal Syngenta files reviewed by the Guardian and The New Lede.

The files reveal an array of tactics, including enlisting a prominent UK scientist and other outside researchers who authored scientific literature that did not disclose any involvement with Syngenta; misleading regulators about the existence of unfavorable research conducted by its own scientists; and engaging lawyers to review and suggest edits for scientific reports in ways that downplayed worrisome findings.

The files also show that Syngenta created what officials called a “Swat team” to be ready to respond to new independent scientific reports that could interfere with Syngenta’s “freedom to sell” paraquat. The group, also referred to as “Paraquat Communications Management Team”, was to convene “immediately on notification” of the publication of a new study, “triage the situation” and plan a response, including commissioning a “scientific critique”.

A key goal was to “create an international scientific consensus against the hypothesis that paraquat is a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease,” the documents state.

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Top US chemical firms to pay $1.2bn to settle water contamination lawsuits

DuPont and two related companies said they would pay close to $1.2bn to settle liability claims brought by public water systems serving the vast majority of the US population on Friday, just days before the start of a bellwether trial in South Carolina over PFAS contamination.

PFAS maker 3M was reportedly also considering a settlement that would keep the company from having to face allegations that it was responsible for knowingly contaminating drinking water supplies around the United States.

The trial set to start on Monday is expected to shine a light on long-held secret documents about the chemical giant 3M’s knowledge of the dangers of its per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 3M has previously announced it will exit PFAS production by 2025.

DuPont and its related companies were recently severed from the case, as they negotiated the settlement in which DuPont will pay roughly $400m ; Chemours, a DuPont spinoff, will pay $592m; and another DuPont-related company, Corteva, will pay about $193m.

The companies said the settlement excludes personal injury claims due to alleged exposure to PFAS, as well as claims by state attorneys general about PFAS contamination of natural resources.

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California researchers link popular weedkiller to health problems in young adults

Children exposed to a weedkiller commonly used in farming, as well as on residential yards and school playgrounds, appear to be at increased risk for liver inflammation and metabolic disorders in young adulthood and more serious diseases later in life, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. 

The paper was authored by 12 California scientists and health researchers – most from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health – and is the latest of many studies linking glyphosate herbicide to human health problems. 

Glyphosate is better known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup products as well as scores of other weedkilling brands sold around the world. The chemical is considered the most widely used herbicide in history, and residues are commonly present in food and water, as well as in human urine. The chemical is so pervasive that government researchers have documented it in rainfall.

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Revealed: the US is averaging one chemical accident every two days

Mike DeWine, the Ohio governor, recently lamented the toll taken on the residents of East Palestine after the toxic train derailment there, saying “no other community should have to go through this”.

But such accidents are happening with striking regularity. A Guardian analysis of data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and by non-profit groups that track chemical accidents in the US shows that accidental releases – be they through train derailments, truck crashes, pipeline ruptures or industrial plant leaks and spills – are happening consistently across the country.

By one estimate these incidents are occurring, on average, every two days.

“These kinds of hidden disasters happen far too frequently,” Mathy Stanislaus, who served as assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of land and emergency management during the Obama administration, told the Guardian. Stanislaus led programs focused on the cleanup of contaminated hazardous waste sites, chemical plant safety, oil spill prevention and emergency response.

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An “urgency to this” – microplastics posing human health risks, report warns

Growing plastic pollution not only poses a threat to wildlife and the environment, but increasingly also to human health due to pervasive microscopic plastic particles that people are ingesting through their diet, according to a research report released Monday.

These microplastics appear to be contributing to fertility problems and poor respiratory health, and to induce biological changes that can lead to cancer in the digestive track, according to the findings.

Microplastics – generally defined as particles smaller than 5 mm (5,000 microns) – result from the breakdown of larger plastic products as well as from the manufacture of miniscule plastics used in cosmetics, industrial cleaners and other products. Most first-generation plastics are made from fossil fuels.

Though there is little research on the human health impacts of microplastics, human exposure has been well documented in recent years. Microplastics have been found in stool samples of people around the world as well as in blood samples and in human lungs.

“There is an urgency to this,” said Tracey Woodruff, professor and director of  the University of California San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), which helped lead the review of nearly 2,000 studies that formed the basis for the new report.

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Biden misses the point on cancer fight

In President Biden’s state of the union address Tuesday night, he pledged his devotion to a fierce “fight against cancer,” invoking a heart-tugging story of baby “Ava,” who began battling kidney cancer at the age of 1.

Biden spoke of a reignited “Cancer Moonshot” search for a cure for cancers that are impacting far too many lives, and of measures to cut healthcare costs to make treating cancer more affordable. He outlined an ambitious goal to cut cancer death rates by at least 50% in the next 25 years, and to “turn more cancers from death sentences to treatable diseases, provide more support for patients and their families.”

But nowhere in his lengthy prime-time address did Biden speak of working to rein in the vast, virtually unchecked, flood of environmental chemical contaminants that scientists say cause cancer.

A new book scheduled for release in May written by journalist Kristina Marusic lays out in stark terms how already-staggeringly highly rates of cancer are sure to continue to climb if we don’t slash our exposure to the chemicals known to cause cancer.

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People exposed to weedkiller chemical have cancer biomarkers in urine – study

New research by top US government scientists has found that people exposed to the widely used weedkilling chemical glyphosate have biomarkers in their urine linked to the development of cancer and other diseases.

The study, published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, measured glyphosate levels in the urine of farmers and other study participants and determined that high levels of the pesticide were associated with signs of a reaction in the body called oxidative stress, a condition that causes damage to DNA.

Oxidative stress is considered by health experts as a key characteristic of carcinogens.

The authors of the paper – 10 scientists with the National Institutes of Health and two from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – concluded that their study “contributes to the weight of evidence supporting an association between glyphosate exposure and oxidative stress in humans”.

They also noted that “accumulating evidence supports the role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of hematologic cancers”, such as lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia.

“Oxidative stress is not something you want to have,” said Linda Birnbaum, a toxicologist and former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. “This study increases our understanding that glyphosate has the potential to cause cancer.”

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