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

Australia's peak cancer body has renewed its calls for a national review into popular weedkiller Roundup after it was linked to another case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

On Tuesday, the glyphosate-based weed killer was unanimously found by a U.S. federal court jury to have been a "substantial factor" in causing the cancer of California man Edwin Hardeman.

This was only the second case to go to trial, from more than 11,000 lawsuits against Roundup.

It comes after an August 2018 ruling awarded another California man AU$408 million after a state court jury found Roundup caused his cancer. That award was later reduced to $110 million, and is currently still on appeal.

The product has now been linked to two separate cancer cases in the U.S. Image: Reuters

The decision in the U.S. has renewed calls from Cancer Council Australia for a review into evidence and Australian workplace practices for glyphosate-based products.

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

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.

Cancer Council Australia's CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said because of this classification, users needed to protect themselves.

READ MORE: Australia's Cancer Capitals Revealed

“While some of the evidence has shown mixed results, after reviewing hundreds of studies, the IARC concluded that glyphosate is 'probably carcinogenic in humans'," Aranda said in a statement to 10 daily.

"The apparent increased risks were mainly found in agricultural workers, and the main cancer type associated with use was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Aranda has renewed calls for a review into Australian data on exposure and the regulations in place to protect workers.

“People should minimise the use of the product if it’s not necessary and those who do work with it should take health and safety precautions," Aranda said, adding there didn't appear to be a risk to the general community.

Image: Getty Images

But the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, the government authority for registration of all agricultural and veterinary chemical products, has disagreed.

When contacted by 10 daily on Wednesday, APVMA pointed to a previous statement -- released five months ago,  a few months after the first U.S court decision -- which said it found no ground to take regulatory action in Australia.

The authority declined to provide any fresh comment or further information.

"Australia’s risk-based, scientific approach to regulation ensures that each agricultural chemical product is thoroughly and independently assessed by the APVMA prior to registration and supply," the October statement said.

"The registration system is supported by a range of post market surveillance, compliance, audit verification and review activities that ensure products available in Australia continue to be used safely and effectively."

10 daily contacted Sinochem, who say they are the exclusive distributor in Australia for Roundup branded products, for comment. In response, Bayer Australia said it was unhappy with the verdict, and defended the products as being used "safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide."

"We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer said in a statement.

"We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and that the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer. Regardless of the outcome, however, the decision in phase one of this trial has no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances."

"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."

Image: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images.

Hardware store giant Bunnings -- which stocks more than 20 Roundup products on its website -- told 10 daily it follows the advice of the APVMA in regards to the product.

"We also routinely review our product range to ensure that everything we sell meets the appropriate standards and will continue to do so," general manager merchandise, Carl Callaghan, said in a statement.

"We take customer and team member welfare extremely seriously and strongly recommend users read and follow the directions and recommendations listed on the labels and packaging of any product that they use."

"Likewise, the correct use of Personal Protective Equipment is recommended for all garden care products."

Callaghan said Bunnings also stocks alternative herbicides for customers who prefer non-glyphosate based products.

The decision in the U.S. means the court trial will now proceed into its second phase, on liability and damages of pharmaceutical company Bayer.

In a statement on Tuesday, Bayer said it was disappointed with the jury’s initial decision.

“We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer,” the company said.

With Reuters. 

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au