Chicago's Top Doctor Addresses Concerns After High Levels of Weed Killer Ingredient Found on Plants Across Illinois, Midwest

Chicago’s top doctor sought to address concerns over the high presence of a key ingredient in weed killer on produce across Illinois after data obtained by NBC News found that some of the highest levels of the chemical are recorded in Illinois and across the Midwest. The chemical causing concern is glyphosate, one of the main components of Roundup, a leading brand of weed killer. The herbicide came under increasing scrutiny after the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015. Since then, thousands of lawsuits have been filed over cancer claims involving the chemical, with Bayer saying in 2020 that it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle litigation. On Tuesday during a Facebook Live session, Chicago’s top doctor Allison Arwady noted that while international agencies have found a potential link between glyphosate and cancer, she noted that the EPA has not found it to be carcinogenic. “I would just say if you are somebody who uses weed killers, you follow the instructions on the bottom, like those are on there to help make sure that you know if you should be wearing gloves or if you should be diluting. It’s really mostly about people who are having a lot of exposure to to the actual pesticides,” Arwady said. Arwady added that while she does not see the presence of glyphosate as “zero-risk”, those who are concerned should look into organic produce, where the use of pesticides is not permitted in order for the product to be labeled as organic. Additionally, Arwady said that there is a much greater concern for cancer within the consumption of processed meats than there is with plants, saying that there is a known link between processed meats and cancer. Monsanto first developed glyphosate in the 1970s. The weed killer has been sold in more than 160 countries and is widely used in the U.S. Bayer, which bought St. Louis-based Monsanto in 2018, said previously that all government regulators that have looked at the issue have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate. Monsanto has attacked the international research agency’s opinion as an outlier. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is safe for people when used in accordance with label directions. NBC News analyzed data from the U.S. Geological Survey surrounding the use of glyphosate in agriculture, with the weed killer being used on everything from corn to soy beans to fruits and more. In fact, the data showed nearly half of all produce in the U.S. are sprayed with weed killer containing the chemical. According to the report, data showed Iowa and Illinois, known for growing corn and soy bean products, accounted for 15% of the national usage. And several counties in the Chicago area had levels among the highest in the country. That included counties like LaSalle, DeKalb and Grundy, along with several other central and northern Illinois counties. Other counties in the Chicago area that also had higher levels included Kankakee, Kendall and McHenry. Other key findings in the report included that more than 55 million people live in counties with above-average use of the chemical. Lake County, Colorado, had the highest usage rate of U.S. counties, with almost 2,000 pounds sprayed per square mile. This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

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