Last month, a golf pro from Washington state filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, claiming the world’s best-selling herbicide caused his cancer. Bayer AG acquired Monsanto in 2018, as well as the company’s legal challenges.
Despite the recent inking of thousands of settlement deals with three Roundup trial firms, the golf pro’s lawsuit will not be included in the approximately 95,000 lawsuits for which Bayer has set aside some $10 billion. Presently, it is not clear whether the golf pro’s case will be included in the $1.25 billion Bayer initially set aside for future Roundup lawsuits.
After a judge strongly suggested that he would not accept Bayer’s settlement offer for cases that have yet to be filed, at the moment, the golf pro’s lawsuit is ostensibly not included in any future settlement deals.
But one thing that makes this case noteworthy is that not only does the plaintiff blame the well-known active herbicidal ingredient, glyphosate, for his cancer, the golf pro also lists a carcinogenic co-conspirator: a “co-formulant” of glyphosate called polyoxyethylene tallow amine.
What is polyoxyethylene tallow amine?
It’s a surfactant, which is a liquid that enhances the spreading and wetting properties. An example of another common surfactant is laundry detergent. As a surfactant, polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA) enhances the activity of herbicides such as glyphosate.
POEA is banned in the European Union (EU). As U.S. Right To Know, a food industry investigative research group, says on its website, “European regulators became so concerned with POEA that in 2016 they agreed to ban it from use as a co-formulant in glyphosate-based herbicides. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in a 2015 report, “[POEA’s] genotoxicity, long term toxicity/carcinogenicity, reproductive/developmental toxicity and endocrine- [hormone] disrupting potential should be further clarified.”
For its part, Monsanto, according to U.S. Right To Know, says POEA poses no imminent risk for human health when used according to instructions. Furthermore, Monsanto alludes to the fact that the EPA exempted POEA from legal limitations on residues in food, because there “is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result to the general population…”
However, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) POEA has “known toxic effects on aquatic organisms.”
Internal Monsanto emails, some of which were obtained in the discovery phase of Roundup litigation, shows the company admitted to a lack of extensive safety tests on POEA. Furthermore, as per U.S. Right To Know, a 2002 email of a Monsanto scientist obtained in discovery, written to a colleague, says, “We are in pretty good shape with glyphosate but vulnerable with surfactants. What I’ve been hearing from you is that this continues to be the case with these studies – Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.”
In another 2002 email between the same Monsanto colleagues, the scientist writes, “Even though no testing requirements have been implemented for several years now, this damn endocrine crap just doesn’t go away, does it[?]”
And another email from 2003 shows a toxicologist employed by Monsanto, who wrote, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient…”
In light of this most recent Roundup lawsuit, should plaintiff’s attorneys be focusing more on POEA than glyphosate? Or at the very least, perhaps this ingredient added to glyphosate should be more of a focus in Roundup trials and media coverage….