Home Depot and Lowe’s failed to warn their customers about the cancer risks associated with Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup, a California man alleges in proposed class actions against the national retailers.

Plaintiff James Weeks, who filed the lawsuits this week in a California federal court, alleges that Home Depot and Lowe’s should know about the dangers Roundup poses to consumers, but they continue to sell the product anyway.

Monsanto and its parent company Bayer face more than 18,000 consumer lawsuits in the U.S. The complaints blame Roundup exposure for causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer. The first three lawsuits against Monsanto have been tried in California courts, and all three resulted in massive jury awards for the plaintiffs. These early “bellwether” cases are considered good predictors of how future legislation against Monsanto and Bayer will turn out.

According to Law360, Mr. Weeks’ lawsuits explain that as retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s received detailed safety information from Monsanto about the hazards associated with Roundup use. Yet despite these red flags, the retailers continued to sell the product to consumers.

And the only heads up consumers had about Roundup’s health hazards was a label warning that the product could cause “moderate eye irritation,” Mr. Weeks’ lawsuit alleges.

“Reasonable consumers, like plaintiff, who have purchased Roundup would not have done so had they known of its carcinogenic risks, or had the defendant provided a warning on how to minimize the risks,” the Weeks lawsuit alleges, according to Law360 said.

Earlier this summer, Costco became the first major retailer to stop selling Roundup. The store was one of several that Moms Across America and other consumer groups petitioned to stop selling the weedkiller but the only one that so far has chosen to remove the product from its “lineup.”

With evidence of glyphosate’s dangers emerging in the recent court cases (internal documents indicate Monsanto manipulated science, government regulators, and the media to downplay Roundup’s risks) it’s plausible that any corporate entity that continues to sell or use Roundup could find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a Class 2A herbicide. In terms of toxicity, that means the chemical is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” That finding set in motion much of the litigation Monsanto and Bayer face today.

In April 2019, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released the long-anticipated Draft Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate. The ATSDR’s findings not only supported those of the IARC but strengthened them. The ATSDR study was also one that Monsanto officials worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to kill.

The ATSDR also found evidence that glyphosate exposure can also have adverse effects on reproduction, child development, and organ toxicity.

Another recent study by the environmental watchdog group Center on Environmental Health found levels of glyphosate in the bodies of 11 out of 12 families tested, with glyphosate levels higher in the children of 10 of the families. Breakfast cereals and other food products containing glyphosate-treated grain and use of Roundup in parks and playground are likely reasons why children had higher concentrations of the chemical in their bodies.

If all consumers stopped using Roundup in their lawns and gardens, it would eliminate just 10 percent of the world’s glyphosate usage. Ninety percent of Roundup use is in farming operations to produce genetically modified crops engineered by Monsanto to resist Roundup, and much of the chemical residue continues to end up in our food.

Days after the first Roundup trial resulted in a $289 million award for terminally ill California groundskeeper DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a Florida woman filed suit against General Mills for allegedly failing to reveal the presence of glyphosate in its Cheerios cereal products. As science continues to reveal more links between glyphosate and cancer, it’s likely that other food manufacturers, growers, and other retailers that continue to use and sell Roundup could be named as defendants in future lawsuits.

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.

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