EPA: Glyphosate Is Not a Carcinogen, Poses No Risk to Public Health

Published May 2, 2019

​A press release published on Tuesday announces EPA’s position that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and poses no risks to public health when used in accordance with its current label. The release is part of an update on the agency’s review of glyphosate, the active ingredient in a variety of broad-spectrum herbicidal products for residential, commercial, and agricultural uses. EPA says its findings related to human health risk are “consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by many other countries and other federal agencies.” EPA did not conduct a quantitative occupational exposure assessment as part of its review, citing “lack of toxicity via the occupational handler and post-application dermal and inhalation routes of exposure.”

“Occupational risks from currently registered uses of glyphosate are not of concern,” the agency’s proposed interim decision (PDF) reads.

To address ecological risks identified in its 2017 assessment of the herbicide, EPA is proposing management measures to help farmers target pesticide sprays on intended pests, protect pollinators, and reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate.

A draft toxicological profile for glyphosate published in April by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that human exposures to the chemical are to herbicides that contain glyphosate and other ingredients. ATSDR explains that human studies have reported possible associations between glyphosate herbicide use and various health outcomes. However, glyphosate formulations vary in specific components and their relative proportions, which ATSDR says precludes “meaningful comparisons of toxic effect levels.”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” A working group convened by IARC found “limited evidence” in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate but cited a positive association for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to the monograph, there is “sufficient evidence” that glyphosate causes cancer in experimental animals.

There is no OSHA permissible exposure limit for glyphosate. In 2017, ACGIH added glyphosate to its “Under Study” list, which includes chemical substances and physical agents to be considered for Threshold Limit Values.

Once the Federal Register notice about EPA’s proposed decision is published, the public will have 60 days to submit comments. A pre-publication version of the notice (PDF) is available on EPA’s website. More information about the agency’s proposed interim registration review decision is also available online.

Related: In the October 2015 Synergist, author Frank Mirer, PhD, CIH, discussed glyphosate and evolving approaches to evidence for chemical hazards in his article “Fifty Shades of Gray” (AIHA member login required).