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Common Weed Killer Linked To Cancer In $2.9 Billion Trial

Pharmaceutical company Bayer was ordered to pay $2.9 billion ($US 2 billion) to a US couple after claims that 30 years of using the weed killer 'Roundup' caused them to develop cancer.

It was the third case that has gone to trial over the link between Roundup's key ingredient glyphosate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - a type of blood cancer that targets the lymphatic system system.

The jury issued the verdict on Monday after two previous California trials accumulated $228.5 million ($US 159 million) in combined damages against the company.

The trials found plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod's use of the weed killer over 30 years for residential landscaping was a "substantial factor" in causing their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

An employee adjusts Roundup products on a shelf in California. Getty Images.

Last year a jury found Roundup caused a school janitor to develop cancer in California. He was awarded $US 289 million, but the damages were later reduced to $US 78 million.

A similar case in March this year saw a California man, Edwin Hardeman, awarded $114 million ($US 81 million).

There are approximately 500 products containing glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, registered for use in Australia.

READ MORE: Weed-Killer Linked To Another Cancer Case Sparks Fresh Calls For Review

READ MORE: Australia's Cancer Capitals Revealed

Chemical regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, maintained that Roundup is safe.

"APVMA approved products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to label directions," its website states.

"In 2016, following the IARC assessment, the APVMA considered glyphosate and found no grounds to place it under formal reconsideration again."

Image: Getty Images

Pharmaceutical giant Bayer claimed the cancer cases were based on "junk science" and that decades of scientific studies have shown Roundup and glyphosate are not harmful.

10 daily previously contacted Roundup's exclusive Australian distributor, Sinochem, who said it was unhappy with the verdict in Hardeman's case.

A representative for Bayer Australia said it continued to "believe firmly" that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer.

"We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup™ was not the cause of his cancer. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them," a statement from Bayer Australia said at the time.

However, there is mixed advice about glyphosate, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying the chemical as a probable carcinogen.

Cancer Council Australia's CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said because of this classification, people should minimise their use of the product where possible.

“Australia is committed to evidence-based solutions and health reviews to allow us to make informed decisions, rather than rulings of US legal cases," Professor Aranda told 10 daily.

“While some of the evidence has shown mixed results, after reviewing hundreds of studies, the IARC concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in humans”. The apparent increased risks were mainly found in agricultural workers, and the main cancer type associated with use was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Professor Aranda added that “there doesn’t appear to be a cancer risk to the general community through general use, playing in areas where the product has been applied or through food consumption.”

Feature Image: Getty Images

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