Is It Time to Round Up Roundup?

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A new study by French scientists has found the inert ingredients in Roundup to be toxic to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cells. Expect intense debate.

Roundup is a top-selling weed killer that has been used for years by homeowners and farmers. It’s always been considered a safe product with health studies consistently finding that its most active ingredient, the herbicide glyphosate, acceptable to use near humans.

However,  the new study shows that Roundup’s inert ingredients –  solvents, preservatives and surfactants – can kill human cells even when the ingredients have a dilute presence.

In fact, the study found that one specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was even more more deadly than the herbicide itself to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies inert ingredients as any ingredient that doesn’t harm pests. POEA is on the EPA’s list of nearly 4,000 inert chemicals approved for use.

But calling them “inert” is misleading. These ingredients, while safe for insects, pests or weeds, are not exactly harmless.

Because specific herbicide formulations are often protected as trade secrets, the amount and types of inert ingredients is never disclosed and therefore, the effects of exposure are studied less than the active herbicide ingredients.

This may soon change. Petitioned by a group of  250 plus environmental, health and labor organizations, the EPA is due to make a decision later this year.

To learn more about this issue, read the in-depth Scientific American article, “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells.”

Image: hashmil