SEATTLE - For nearly 20 years, Leonard Tierney of Duvall strapped-on a backpack full of concentrated Roundup mixed with water to eradicate weeds in his clients' yards.
He believed Roundup was the safest weed-killing product on the market “because I was of the understanding in UV light and sunlight, it broke down and became inert,” Tierney told KIRO 7 Wednesday.
However, according to Tierney's just-filed civil complaint -- and the growing number of similar lawsuits being filed against Monsanto and parent company Bayer --- Roundup is not safe.
“The connection between Roundup exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has been known by Monsanto for decades,” said Tierney’s attorney, Corrie Yackulic, of Seattle.
Just last week, the University of Washington released a study that links the herbicide in Roundup --- glyphosate --- to a more than 40% increased risk for some cancers. The study analyzed more than 54,000 people who work as licensed pesticide applicators, like landscaper Tierney.
Study author Lianne Sheppard Ph.D. told KIRO 7 even weekend gardeners should rethink using Roundup.
“Those of us who want to control our risks can change our behaviors to reduce the exposures that we think are going to potentially affect us,” she said.
Tierney was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last May and has since stopped using Roundup.
Nine months later, he's done with chemotherapy but will always be at risk for the cancer's return.
Despite that, he’s not angry with Monsanto or Bayer.
“I was more concerned with the fact that I had cancer rather than what the source was at the time,” he said.
His wife Christy, however, is angry.
“When we were first given the diagnosis, it just devastated us and I would like to see large warning signs.
I’d love to see it put out there that even weekend users need to be careful with this.
This is not a safe product,” she said.
The Tierneys hope their lawsuit will lead to financial compensation for their medical costs and suffering.
They'd also like Monsanto/Bayer to put a label on Roundup packages warning about the risks, or a ban of the product altogether; something their lawyer believes may happen if enough people pursue legal action.
“Until they lose a certain number of cases, I think they are going to continue to argue that the product is safe,” Yackulic said.
“As long as they are making money on it, they are not going to admit there’s a problem.”
When asked for comment, Bayer’s director for U.S. external communications released the following statement:
“There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to EPA, European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, that confirms that these products are safe when used as directed. Notably, the largest and most recent epidemiologic study – the 2018 independent National Cancer Institute-supported long-term study that followed over 50,000 pesticide applicators for more than 20 years and was published after the IARC monograph – found no association between glyphosate-based herbicides and cancer. Additionally, EPA’s 2017 post-IARC cancer risk assessment examined more than 100 studies the agency considered relevant and concluded that glyphosate is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ its most favorable rating.
“Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
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