Roundup products

Roundup products line the shelves of a home improvement store. The weed killer contains glyphosate, believed by some to be a carcinogen.

The son-in-law of a Whittier man who died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is challenging chemical-giant Monsanto.

Bryson City lawyer David Sawyer’s wife, Linda, is the daughter of Charles Bradshaw, who died in October 2016 at age 85.

Sawyer has filed a lawsuit alleging glyphosate, a chemical used in Monsanto’s flagship Roundup product, caused his father-in-law’s death.

The lawyer says Monsanto failed to test or investigate Roundup and glyphosate adequately, before or after putting it on the market in 1974.

Bradshaw used Roundup according to package instructions through about 2014 to kill weeds on his property, according to the lawsuit.

Bradshaw and his wife, Eleanor, lived on about 30 acres outside Whittier. He used the land as a base for multiple businesses over the decades, including operating a campground and a self-storage warehouse. Bradshaw built rental homes and leased various pastures for livestock.

He would have been ignorant of the dangers of the chemical, “due to Monsanto’s suppression of scientific information linking glyphosate to cancer,” the suit states. Bradshaw believed the company’s advertising, which included a claim that Roundup was “as safe as table salt,” Sawyer says in court documents.

At age 68, Bradshaw was diagnosed in 1999 with Hodgkin’s disease. He successfully underwent treatment for the disease, a cancer affecting lymph nodes. Bradshaw underwent a battery of tests in the years following.

In 2014, he was found to have a progressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slow-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The disease is classified as a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Legal action against Monsanto sprang up nationwide after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in 2015 glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.” A panel of 17 scientists from 11 countries conducted a year-long study on glyphosate, eventually giving it a Group 2A rating, the second-highest hazard rating.

For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the report said.

According to the EPA, “‘limited evidence’ is a collection of facts and accepted scientific inferences that suggests that an agent may be causing an effect, but this suggestion is not strong enough to be considered established fact.”

The local lawsuit alleges Monsanto assured the public Roundup was safe by falsifying data and attacking legitimate studies that pointed to its dangers.

“As a result of this deception, the public has been exposed to a carcinogen while Monsanto has made billions of dollars,” the lawsuit states.

“I’ve read that there are about 11,000 to 13,000 cases against Monsanto nationwide,” Sawyer told the Herald in a recent interview. “They’re scattered around, some in state court, some in federal court. There are cases in North Carolina, but I don’t know where or how many.”

The suit seeks at least $25,000, Sawyer said.

“We have not made a demand, saying ‘pay us this amount,’” he said. “That will come in the future. If the case goes to trial, we’re looking at about two years from now.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for:

• Expense of care, treatment and hospitalization.

• Compensation for Bradshaw’s pain and suffering.

• Funeral expenses.

• Lost income.

• Society, companionship, comfort and advice of Bradshaw to the persons entitled to the damages.

• Punitive damages.

• Nominal damages.

The suit said the request for punitive damages is because “there is no indication that Monsanto will stop its deceptive and unlawful marketing practices unless it is punished and deterred.”

The complaint has been filed, but has not been served yet, Sawyer said.

“I’m doing some preparation work that I want to do prior to the serving of the complaint,” he said.

Once served, Monsanto will be summoned to respond, Sawyer said.

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Bayer’s response

In response to an inquiry, Bayer Crop Sciences Media Coordinator Charla Lord sent the following email:

“We have great sympathy for the family’s loss, but the extensive body of science on glyphosate-based herbicides over four decades supports the conclusion that Roundup does not cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.

“The 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, 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 April 30, 2019, interim registration review decision reaffirmed that ‘glyphosate is not a carcinogen’ and noted that the EPA’s independent cancer assessment is ‘more robust’ and ‘more transparent’ than IARC’s review.”

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Glyphoste facts

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate was first registered for use in the U.S. in 1974.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States.

There are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the United States. Users apply it in agriculture and forestry, lawns and gardens and weeds.

Some products containing glyphosate control aquatic plants.

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill most plants.

Glyphosate stops a specific enzyme pathway, the shikimic acid pathway, which is necessary for plants and some microorganisms.

German giant Bayer completed a purchase of Monsanto Company in June, 2018.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in an April 29 release that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

In a report called a “Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision” the EPA did not identify any human health risks from exposure to any use of glyphosate.

It said there was a potential risk to mammals and birds, but only those in or near application areas.

The report went on to say that glyphosate is versatile, essential in some applications and that the benefits “far outweigh the potential ecological risks.”

For treatment advice on exposure to glyphosate, contact the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. To discuss a pesticide problem, call 800-858-7378.