Herbicides and your health

Glyphosate is a popular herbicide used to kill certain plants and grasses, manage how plants grow, get crops ready for harvest, and ripen fruit.

It’s been in the news recently because of concerns about health risks.

Where Is Glyphosate Used?

Glyphosate is one of the world’s most common herbicides. It’s the active ingredient in popular weed-control products like Roundup, Rodeo, and Pondmaster. Many farmers use it during food production.

It’s often used on:

Exposure to Glyphosate in Your Lawn and Garden

If you use a weed killer with glyphosate on your lawn or garden, you may be exposed to glyphosate by breathing it in, getting it on your skin, or getting it in your eyes. Your risk goes up if you:

If you’re exposed, your eyes, skin, nose, and throat may get irritated. If you get it in your eyes, it could lead to mild irritation or a superficial corneal injury. If you swallow it, you may have increased saliva and burns and pain in your mouth and throat. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In some cases, people who intentionally swallowed products with glyphosate have died.

To lower your risk, wash your hands and take off your clothes after you handle one of these products.

Exposure to Glyphosate in Your Food

You may also be exposed to glyphosate in your food.

Many farmers use glyphosate products in their fields and orchards. They spray it on crops like corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, also known as GMOs. They also spray it on non-GMO crops like wheat, barley, oats, and beans, to dry out the crops so they can harvest them sooner.

It gets into foods early in the food chain, before raw food is harvested and before it’s processed.

Which Foods Have Glyphosate?

You may have heard in recent news that oat-based products like oatmeal, cereal, granola bars, and snack bars have glyphosate.

In one report from California scientists and the World Health Organization, 43 of 45 oat-based products tested had it. Popular breakfast foods like Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and Cheerios had above-average levels.

It’s also in grain and bean products like pasta, buckwheat, barley, kidney beans, and chickpeas.

Some foods may surprise you, like avocados, apples, blueberries, cherries, cucumbers, dates, dried peas, garlic, lemons, olives, peanuts, pomegranates, potatoes, rice, spinach, sugarcane, tobacco, tomatoes, and walnuts.

Is It in Organic Foods?

To limit your exposure, buy organic products. Glyphosate is banned in organic farming. But that doesn’t eliminate it entirely. In the World Health Organization report, one-third of organic oat products tested had traces of glyphosate. But they were below levels associated with risk.

It’s possible glyphosate drifts over from nearby fields with conventionally grown crops or during cross-contamination at processing facilities that handle non-organic crops.

Long-Term Health Risks

Short-term exposure to glyphosate isn’t something you need to worry much about. Experts say it’s less toxic than table salt. But it’s long-term risk may be a concern. Scientists are divided on how much risk is involved. Reports show conflicting results. And keep in mind that most studies involve animals, not people:

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