The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Trump Administration, told California that it cannot put warning labels on products that contain glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup that has been linked to cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Federal law regulates how herbicides are labeled, but states can impose their own requirements to the labels as long as they do not weaken what federal law requires, according to Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Thus, the EPA telling California it cannot place stronger warnings on weed killers sold in the state is rather unusual.
“It’s a little bit sad the EPA is the bigger cheerleader and defender of glyphosate,” Hartl told AP News. “It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, not the pesticide protection agency.”
In 1986, California voters approved the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which requires the state to publish a list of carcinogenic chemicals per agencies like the EPA and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Companies are also required to warn consumers about those chemicals in their products.
The problem is that the EPA maintains that glyphosate does not cause cancer. But in 2015, the IARC classified the chemical as a probable carcinogen, which then meant California had to add a warning label, per the state’s law.
But the warning label hasn’t been added to herbicides sold in California yet because Monsanto – the company that manufactures Roundup – filed a lawsuit to prevent the labeling. A federal judge blocked the action until the lawsuit could be resolved. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement that requiring the labels on products is “irresponsible.”
Monsanto was acquired by Bayer AG last year, just months before the first trial against Monsanto alleging exposure to glyphosate in Roundup caused a school groundskeeper to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A California jury ordered Monsanto to pay the man $289 million in damages. Last May, a jury awarded $2.055 billion to a couple who both developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they claim was caused by their use of Roundup.
The company faces an additional 13,000 lawsuits involving cancer claims with the herbicide.
Beasley Allen is investigating cases involving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma related to the commercial application of Roundup/glyphosate. For more information, contact John Tomlinson or Rhon Jones in our Toxic Torts Section.