Organic compounds containing phosphorus – “organophosphorus” compounds – are highly effective insecticides, but they also include some of the most toxic substances ever created.

In 1970, a chemist for Monsanto, John E. Franz, found that an organophosphorus compound called glyphosate is also an effective herbicide, and Monsanto began selling glyphosate as a commercial herbicide in 1974, using the product name “Roundup.”

In 2015, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from its herbicide products – mostly Roundup. That figure represents a substantial portion of the global market for glyphosate.

Glyphosate’s herbicidal qualities have been recognized and promoted by agricultural experts around the world. Stephen O. Duke, a biologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, characterizes glyphosate as a “virtually ideal” herbicide.

Australian biologist Stephen B. Powles claims, “glyphosate is a one in a 100-year discovery that is as important for reliable global food production as penicillin is for battling disease.”

However, not all of the reviews of glyphosate – and Roundup – have been quite so positive. In 2015, researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen.”

And following a recent court decision, California could become the first state to compel Monsanto to label the active ingredient in Roundup as a possible carcinogen.

WHAT ARE CALIFORNIA’S PROPOSITION 65 GUIDELINES?

California Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan ruled on March 10th that Roundup is subject to California’s Proposition 65 guidelines, which require the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

After the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) filed a notice of intent to list the glyphosate in Roundup as a carcinogen, Monsanto filed a lawsuit in 2016 which accused CalEPA of deferring to the IARC and depriving Monsanto of its First Amendment rights by compelling the potential addition of the warning label. Judge Kapetan disagreed and gave CalEPA the green light to list glyphosate as a carcinogen.

The ruling appears to enhance product liability and wrongful death lawsuits based on the link between Roundup and cancer. Jack McCall, for example, used Roundup on the family farm in Cambria for decades. McCall died in 2015 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“My husband Jack was very conscious of the dangers of chemicals and his misfortune was taking Monsanto’s word that Roundup was safe,” said Teri McCall at a January 27 press conference.

She has filed one of more than a dozen product liability and wrongful death lawsuits that claim glyphosate led to cancer and that Monsanto has long known glyphosate poses “significant risks to human health, including a risk of causing cancer.”

Those lawsuits have also led to the release of internal Monsanto documents that, according to the New York Times, may indicate that Monsanto was orchestrating and ghostwriting research by ostensibly independent researchers while simultaneously conducting a public relations campaign to persuade the public that Roundup was safe. “These allegations are false,” the company said in a statement.

WHAT DOES RECENT RESEARCH SAY ABOUT ROUNDUP?

But a recently published study in the journal Scientific Reports indicates that even low doses of glyphosate lead to severe liver problems in rats.

The researchers, from King’s College London, write that, “The results of the study presented here imply that chronic consumption of extremely low levels of a GBH formulation (Roundup), at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations, are associated with marked alterations of the liver….”

Glyphosate has also been identified as a likely cause of CKDu, a “chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology” that has afflicted thousands of workers on South American sugar cane plantations and Asian rice farms for about a decade.

CKDu is a leading cause of death in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Younger men in Central America are fifteen times more likely to suffer kidney disease than their counterparts in the United States. In Sri Lanka and India, glyphosate spraying of the rice fields contaminates the drinking water in nearby villages.

Toxic chemicals we use every day – ingredients in paint, foods, cosmetics, cookware, and even upholstery – kill and injure thousands of us every year right here in the United States.

In Southern California, if you have been injured or made ill by the use of any toxic chemical – or even if you’re not sure – have a medical examination at once and consider speaking with an experienced Orange County product liability attorney.

If you’ve been injured using any consumer product as it was intended to be used, you are entitled to full compensation for all of your medical expenses, lost income, and all other injury-related damages.

WHAT IS YOUR RECOURSE IF YOU ARE INJURED BY TOXIC CHEMICALS?

Toxic chemicals like glyphosate pose a wide range of health and safety hazards. If you’re injured because of toxic chemicals you’ve been exposed to at your job, you may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, but you should also speak to an Orange County product liability attorney.

In some cases, you may be able to pursue a “third-party” product liability claim against the chemical’s manufacturer outside of the workers’ compensation system.

Carl F. Cranor is a professor of philosophy at the University of California Riverside and the author of Tragic Failures: How and Why We are Harmed by Toxic Chemicals, recently published by Oxford University Press. Cranor is a longtime advocate of regulating toxic substances, and he has served on a number of science advisory panels in California.

He says lawmakers are not doing enough to protect the public and writes that “the law creates and invites ignorance about toxicants, risking our health and permitting substantial harm.”

California’s product liability attorneys are dedicated to fighting any company that puts profits above the safety of the general public.

Their work is essential because, as Carl Cranor confirms in his book, “the laws create ignorance about potential toxicants, provide substantial incentives for companies to remain ignorant about their own products, and, because of the legal structures, provide many incentives for companies to create doubt about the science or demand ideal science in fiercely opposing any actions that might threaten their products or reduce their profits.”

By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.