One in four has low levels of exposure to the herbicide glyphosate, study

Research has shown that one in four people in Ireland is exposed to low levels of glyphosate, which kills weeds.

Researchers at the University of Galway examined background exposure levels to the herbicide in the first study of its kind in Ireland.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is assessing whether to renew the authorization of glyphosate in the EU after safety concerns have been raised, including a potential link to cancer.

The Image research project, which ran from 2019 to 2020, tested urine samples from farm and non-farm families for the presence of glyphosate and its main human metabolite, AMPA.

University research

Dr Alison Connolly (left), former researcher at the University of Galway, now working at UCD, and Dr Marie Coggins from the University of Galway (PA)

The project was led by Exposure Science researchers at the University of Galway in collaboration with the Institute of Prevention and Occupational Health in Bochum, Germany, and the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt-UBA).

Dr Alison Connolly, who led the research at the University of Galway, said: “This study has produced important results on human exposure to a chemical of public interest and is particularly timely with the European Commission now reassessing glyphosate.

“Although quantifiable levels have been low, it is important to understand how chemical exposure can occur among different groups, especially vulnerable people such as children.

“This information is essential to conduct robust regulatory risk assessments, manage exposure levels and fully understand their impact on human health.

“This study also showed how beneficial human biomonitoring is in assessing chemical exposure.”

Dr Marie Coggins, Senior Lecturer in Exposure Science at the University of Galway, said: “The glyphosate exposure data published in the Image study is significant as the European Commission assesses its renewal assessment for this controversial pesticide.”

She said the reported exposure figures were “low” compared to the current acceptable safe daily intake set by the European Food Safety Authority.

A total of 68 families participated in the study, 14 of whom lived on farms and one family member sprayed glyphosate-based pesticides.

The study looked at the tests of 226 people with a detailed diet and lifestyle questionnaire.

Glyphosate was detectable in 26% of the samples and AMPA in 59% of the samples.

There was no statistical difference between the exposures of farm and non-farm families, although higher concentrations were detected among some farm-dwelling fathers, possibly because they sprayed glyphosate-based pesticide products the day before the samples were collected.

The researchers said the higher frequency of AMPA detection may be due to dietary exposure, i.e. residues in food and water.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *