Roundup is the world’s most common herbicide, used internationally for a variety of agricultural applications. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, has left its residual mark throughout the environment, and in our food. In a recent study, exposure to glyphosate was found to correlate with shorter pregnancies in women from the US.
In just the US, approximately 300 million pounds of Roundup are used each year. The greatest application of glyphosate is in the Midwestern area of the US, for the production of corn and soy beans.
A report from Science Daily yesterday details a study published earlier in the month that arrived at two troubling findings regarding “the most heavily used herbicide worldwide”, glyphosate.
In what was reportedly the first study (in America, at least) to investigate the link between exposure to glyphosate and adverse outcomes during pregnancy, glyphosate was detected in over 90% of pregnant women who participated, and glyphosate levels correlated with shorter pregnancies in these women. Previous studies have suggested that shorter-than-normal pregnancies can result in a host of negative health outcomes for the baby.
71 pregnant women from Central Indiana were recruited for this study. Participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire detailing their diet – including consumption of organic food, and caffeine – as well as their consumption of drinking water. Urine samples were collected from these women both at the onset of the study, and between 11 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. Along with the second urine sample, a sample of the drinking water from the participant’s residential area was also obtained. Finally, medical records were examined to determine the outcomes of these women’s respective pregnancies.
Contrary to what was expected, no glyphosate was detected in the drinking water collected from Indiana. However, glyphosate was detected in the urine of 93% of the women who participated in the study. Glyphosate levels were higher for those who reported higher caffeine consumption, and for those living in a rural area. The researchers involved in the study therefore suspect that glyphosate is consumed through caffeine (derived from plants/beans) and diet.
Furthermore, the study found direct evidence that “higher [glyphosate] levels were significantly associated with shorter gestational lengths.”
However, most of the pregnant women who participated in the study were Caucasian limited to one region, meaning these findings are not yet generalizable to a racially and ethnically diverse population – pregnancy length largely depends on factors such as race.
The study was originally published in Environmental Health and authored by researchers from the Indiana University, and the University of California, San Francisco. Though it provided strong evidence for the link between glyphosate exposure and shortened pregnancy, more research will be required to replicate these findings in other populations and regions, ideally with a greater cohort size.
But according to a statement by Shahid Parvez, the lead author of the study from Indiana University, the “one thing we cannot deny is that glyphosate exposure in pregnant women is real,” and these findings “mandate further investigation.”
This report from the US comes late of a debate overseas in Europe, where despite calls from anti-pesticide activists, the European Commission has reauthorized the use of glyphosate in member states of the EU for the next five years.