On July 7, 2017 glyphosate, an herbicide found in the household staple Roundup, joined the ranks of over 800 chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. The recent classification is part of Proposition 65 (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986), which aims to inform California citizens of chemicals and toxins known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It is a non-selective herbicide meaning it will kill most plants it is applied to. It does this by stopping the specific enzyme pathway, the shikimic acid pathway, which consequently prevents plants from making certain proteins that are essential for growth. There are over 750 products that contain glyphosate for sale in the United States, with the most popular, arguably, being Monsanto’s Roundup (Henderson, NPIC).
The decision stemmed from a 2015 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that found glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Since that release, there has been much controversy surrounding the topic (most notably more than 800 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients have sued Monsanto claiming exposure to Roundup gave them cancer), and countless articles have been released either supporting or denying the health risks of glyphosate (Yan, CNN).
Nevertheless, the agency responsible for updating the Proposition 65 chemicals list, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA; part of the California Environmental Protection Agency), released a notice March 28, 2017 that the state of California would now acknowledge glyphosate as a carcinogen. Since the March notice, a lawsuit was filed by Monsanto against the claims and then overruled by California courts. Thus, the Proposition 65 list was updated to include glyphosate on July 7, 2017. The OEHHA will now work to establish a safe level of exposure for glyphosate (current proposal is 1.1 milligrams a day) aiming towards a July 2018 implementation deadline (Yan, CNN).
When considering its chemical makeup, glyphosate poses the most environmental quality risks to soil. This is so because it generally is moderately persistent in soil (up to 6 months), evident by strong adsorption rates to soil particles. Conversely, glyphosate is highly soluble in water and therefore dilutes quickly. It also has a low air vapor pressure making volatilization chances nonexistent. Glyphosate, therefore, is highly unlikely to affect water or air quality. In general, though, the chemical makeup of glyphosate makes it unlikely for an organism to be exposed to the chemical via the environment. Extremely large quantities of glyphosate would need to be present for there to be significant environmental change (Schuette, CDPR).
Regardless, the new measure may still require action from your business. Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify Californians when these chemicals are in their products, found on their sites, or released into the environment on their behalf. Businesses that are then affected by the findings are required to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning either labeled on products, posted in facilities, or released to clients in some other messaging mode within 12 months of when a chemical has been added to the Proposition 65 list. Proposition 65 also prohibits companies from knowingly discharging a listed chemical into a drinking water source. So, when a chemical is listed affected businesses have 20 months to comply with the discharge prohibition. This measure is especially important in the world of environmental compliance.
The experts at Alta can help you meet compliance standards for Proposition 65. Our experts most importantly suggest owners, facility managers, and operations managers make sure to create warning signs right away, and then update those labels/notices annually thereafter. If you do not, you may incur significant legal fees to defend against potential lawsuits and eventually pay a settlement. Alta can help ensure proper messaging and language is used with your warnings. We can also perform product line and site assessments, toxicology studies, and similar analyses to determine where chemicals of concern under Proposition 65 are present within your operations. We can design chemical management plans to ensure chemicals are used and stored properly on your site, or offer suggestions to replace or phase out your use of certain chemicals. We can also help defend you in court through expert witnesses.
Whatever it is, Alta is the premier firm in the industry to handle all your environmental needs. Give us a call at 562 495-5777.
Blog by Natalie Kvochak, Environmental Specialist.
Schuette, J. 1998. Environmental Fate of Glyphosate; Environmental Monitoring & Pest Management, Department of Pesticide Regulation. Accessed July 2017. http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/pubs/fatememo/glyphos.pdf
Henderson, A. M.; Gervais, J. A.; Luukinen, B.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2010. Glyphosate General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html.
Yan, H. 2017. California says key ingredient in Roundup weed killer can cause cancer; CNN. Accessed July 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/health/california-glyphosate-cancer-chemical-listing/index.html