Glyphosate Herbicide: Toxicity, Studies & Safety

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over a well-known herbicide called glyphosate. You'll find out what various studies have said about its toxicity and what safety concerns it entails.

What Is Glyphosate?

Have you ever heard of Roundup? It's one of the most famous weed killers out there. Roundup, in some of its many different forms, contains a chemical called glyphosate, which is extensively used as an herbicide. However, glyphosate can also cause an extensive array of problems. That's what this lesson goes over: the many potential safety problems associated with this chemical compound.

Toxic Effects & Studies

Besides being toxic to aquatic ecosystems in the short and long term, glyphosate is also potentially hazardous to human health. To give you an overall idea of how it compares to similar substances, the Environmental Protection Agency rates glyphosate's toxicity as Category III (with Category I being extremely toxic and Category IV being the lowest toxicity).

If you ingest (eat or swallow) a significant enough amount of glyphosate, you may experience irritation of the digestive tract. At least one study, published in 2013, has implied that glyphosate's toxic effects, when ingested, stem from the inhibition of an important enzyme system in our body that basically detoxifies the things we eat. As a result, glyphosate residues found in the food we eat might lead to everything from cancer to Alzheimer's to infertility and more. That being said, earlier studies conducted on rats, mice, and beagles failed to find a link between glyphosate and cancer.

Other studies have shown that repeated exposure to glyphosate or exposure to high amounts of glyphosate has been linked to organ damage, such as damage to the kidneys.

Numerous reports, including those involving people and studies conducted on animals, have shown that glyphosate doesn't have to be ingested to cause problems. If it gets into the eyes, it may cause severe eye damage. That means permanent damage to your vision or even permanent blindness. Glyphosate may produce irritation if it comes into contact with the skin. If glyphosate is inhaled, it can also cause irritation to the respiratory tract.

While glyphosate is not a narcotic, some signs and symptoms of glyphosate toxicity include narcotic-like effects. Narcotics are drugs that can cause significant nervous system depression. In the real world, this may translate to drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness and, in severe cases, coma and death of a person poisoned by this chemical.

Glyphosate is also suspected of harming unborn children, although the industry maintains it's only toxic to a fetus at levels that are already toxic to the mother. In general, manufacturers of products containing glyphosate maintain it is largely safe in terms of human health as long as it's used properly.

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