Dying groundskeeper links Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer

In this file photo taken on July 09, 2018, plaintiff Dewayne Johnson listens as attorney Brent Wisner (out of frame) speaks about his condition during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Dying groundskeeper links Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer

  • Monsanto has denied any link with the disease and says studies have concluded the product is safe
  • Roundup has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lombardi

SAN FRANCISCO: A California groundskeeper dying of cancer said Monday he would “never” have used Monsanto weed killer Roundup, had he known it could lead to his terminal illness.
The trial pitting 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson against the agrochemical colossus is expected to last into August, with the potential for a major impact on the company recently acquired by Germany-based Bayer.
The case is the first to reach trial alleging a cancer link from Roundup, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides.
The legal clash involves dueling studies, along with allegations Monsanto connived behind the scenes to thwart potentially damning research.
Diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells, Johnson told jurors he sprayed Roundup and especially its more powerful professional grade Ranger Pro product for two years at a school in Benicia, California.
One of his lawyers, David Dickens, held a Ranger Pro dispenser in his hand as he asked Johnson whether he would have used the product if he had seen a cancer warning on the label.
“I would never have sprayed RP in schools or anywhere else,” replied Johnson, whose job as groundskeeper including ridding the area of pests and weeds with the help of up to 150 gallons (560 liters) of diluted solution per day.
Twice, a lot of product got on his skin and clothes because of a vaporizer malfunction, and Johnson experienced an “uncontrollable situation on my skin.”
He called the Monsanto hotline, but received no follow-up calls from representatives despite promises they would do so.

Johnson, who sat in court with his lawyer and wife, watched as his dermatologist Ope Ofodile testified in California Superior Court.
Ofodile testified that Johnson consulted her when he noticed a rash on his body starting in 2014.
“He was frightened by the state of his skin,” the physician told the trial.
After seeing the rash, Ofodile said she sent a letter to the school district board saying “that he shouldn’t be exposed to any airborne chemicals that could worsen his condition.”
Asked whether she was referring to Ranger Pro, she said, “Yes.”
But the physician said she did not investigate what caused the rash, and that she was focusing on treating the patient rather than establishing a link to Roundup.
Johnson had little warning about the risks of Roundup, his lawyer said in opening statements earlier this month.
“He was told you could drink it, it was completely non-toxic,” lawyer Brent Wisner claimed in his opening remarks.
The lawyer said Johnson, who is between rounds of chemotherapy, “is actually on borrowed time — he is not supposed to be alive today.”
A key to Johnson’s case will be convincing jurors that Monsanto’s pesticide — whose main ingredient is glyphosate — is responsible for the illness.
Wisner contended that glyphosate combined with an ingredient intended to help it spread over leaves in a cancer-causing “synergy.”

Whether glyphosate causes cancer has been the source of long debate among government regulators, health experts and lawyers.
If Monsanto loses, the case could open the door to hundreds of additional lawsuits against the company.
Monsanto has denied any link with the disease and says studies have concluded the product is safe.
“Mr Johnson’s cancer is a terrible disease. We all do and we all should have great sympathy for what he is going through,” Monsanto defense attorney George Lombardi said during his opening remarks.
But the lawyer maintained that “the scientific evidence is overwhelming that glyphosate-based products do not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr.Johnson’s cancer.”
Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup was launched in 1976.
Roundup has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lombardi.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer — a World Health Organization body — classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” and as a result, the state of California listed it as carcinogenic.
Founded in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto began producing agrochemicals in the 1940s. It was acquired by Bayer for more than $62 billion in June.


Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

In this March 22, 2012 file photo, a doctor demonstrates how an infant can die due to unsafe sleeping practices using a scene re-enactment doll in Norfolk, Va. (AP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

  • The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states
  • Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old

CHICAGO: Accidental suffocation is a leading cause of injury deaths in US infants and common scenarios involve blankets, bed-sharing with parents and other unsafe sleep practices, an analysis of government data found.
These deaths “are entirely preventable. That’s the most important point,” said Dr. Fern Hauck, a co-author and University of Virginia expert in infant deaths.
Among 250 suffocation deaths, roughly 70 percent involved blankets, pillows or other soft bedding that blocked infants’ airways. Half of these soft bedding-related deaths occurred in an adult bed where most babies were sleeping on their stomachs.
Almost 20 percent suffocated when someone in the bed accidentally moved against or on top of them, and about 12 percent died when their faces were wedged against a wall or mattress.
The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states. The results offer a more detailed look at death circumstances than previous studies using vital records, said lead author Alexa Erck Lambert, a CDC researcher.
The authors said anecdotal reports suggest there’s been little change in unsafe sleep practices in more recent years.
“It is very, very distressing that in the US we’re just seeing this resistance, or persistence of these high numbers,” Hauck said.
The study was published Monday in Pediatrics.
For years, the US government and the American Academy of Pediatrics have waged safe-sleep campaigns aimed at preventing accidental infant suffocations and strangulations and sudden infant death syndrome. These include “back to sleep” advice promoting having babies sleep on their backs, which experts believe contributed to a decline in SIDS deaths over nearly 30 years. But bed-sharing has increased, along with bed-related accidental suffocations — from 6 deaths per 100,000 infants in 1999 to 23 per 100,000 in 2015, the researchers note.
Dr. Rachel Moon, a University of Virginia pediatrics professor not involved in the study, said the results are not surprising.
“Every day I talk to parents who have lost babies. They thought they were doing the right thing, and it seems safe and it seems OK, until you lose a baby,” Moon said.
Some studies have found bed-sharing increases breastfeeding and it’s common in some families because of cultural traditions. Others simply can’t afford a crib.
Erika Moulton, a stay-at-home mom in suburban New York, said bed-sharing was the only way her son, Hugo, would sleep as a newborn. Moulton struggled with getting enough sleep herself for months, and while she knew doctors advise against it, bed-sharing seemed like the only option.
Now 14 months old, “he’s still in our bed,” she said. “Trying to transition him out is a little difficult.”
The pediatricians group recommends that infants sleep on firm mattresses in their own cribs or bassinets but in their parents’ room for the first year. A tight-fitting top sheet is the only crib bedding recommended, to avoid suffocation or strangulation.
Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old.