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On days too hot for football in the park, kids in our Palo Alto neighborhood in the early 1960s often met at a friend's house where a slip and slide was set up. Imagine exposure levels when kids indulged in slip and slide on a lawn sprayed with 2,4-D by ChemLawn a few days earlier.

Archived Blog Posts
  • Fairness and Trust in Organic Food Supply Chains

    From the British Food Journal Findings show that perceived distributional, procedural and interactional fairness mutually interact with the perceived trustworthiness of business partners and that both contribute to building personal, organisational and institutional trust. Qualitative data support the conceptual model and show that trust is a valuable relational resource that affects relationship quality and the willingness to collaborate and to take risks in times of uncertainty.   More here.

  • Russell K. King | Executive Director In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

    By Russell K. King, HHRA Executive Director Thanksgiving is just hours away, and the spirit of gratitude envelopes me like a familiar old quilt on a cold November night.  As I wrap the comforter of gratefulness around me, I contemplate its myriad threads woven into the pattern of my life.  They include, of course, the harvest of Earth’s gifts and the deep meanings and joys I glean from the love of my family and friends, but this year there is a new thread in the pattern: the HHRA.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say there are many HHRA threads that inspire gratitude. A human cause.  Over the course of my career in nonprofit leadership and consulting, I’ve had the honor of advancing many worthy causes. What I’ve learned along the way is that the more directly a cause serves human needs and enhances human wellbeing, the greater is the intrinsic reward of giving it my all.  The work of the HHRA is about public health, maternal health, and child health–inspiring a rather sacred sort of gratitude. Leadership.  Another observation I’ve made over the years of helping nonprofits is that high-quality leadership, whether found or cultivated, is rare.  The HHRA has a trio of leaders who are committed to sound science:  Tom Green, chair of the HHRA Board of Directors, Dr. David Haas, who leads our Heartland Study, and Dr. Phil Landrigan, chair of our Science Advisory Board.  Their insistence that we “not get ahead of the data” and that we “are agnostic about the outcomes” of our research is the kind of leadership that preserves the integrity of our work. That integrity is vital to acceptance of our outcomes and recommendations. In turn, that acceptance is essential to our ability to enhance public health through changes in policy, practice, and public perception.  I’m grateful for such leadership at the HHRA because it is both uncommon and essential. A talented team.  Almost any part of life is enhanced by the blessing of working with a great team, and the HHRA is so blessed.  Paul Hartnett and Grace Koch distinguish themselves not merely by being exceptionally smart, talented, and industrious, but also by being exceptionally good people of honesty, wit, and warmth. Funding support.  Of course, this cornucopia of would not exist without the courage, wisdom, and generosity of our grantors and donors.  They, too, inspire great gratitude in this season of Thanksgiving.   You can help, too.  To the entire HHRA family, I offer my thanks.  May you, too, find many reasons to be grateful, and may that feeling linger long in our hearts.  Together, may we hear the harmony of the song of seasons and the voice of hope in change. May we know ourselves and each other as leaves upon the tree of life, even as we bud and grow and fall. And may we wee the beauty in it all.    

  • Phil Landrigan The Role of the Heartland Study and HHRA in the Global Glyphosate Study

    By Philip Landrigan, MD, Chair, HHRA Science Advisory Committee As the design of the five-year Global Glyphosate Study (GGS) came into focus in 2018-2019, I served as chair of the Ramazzini Institute (RI) Science Advisory Committee. Melissa Perry, MD, then the co-primary investigator the Heartland Study, served with me on this committee. During those early meetings with RI scientists, we learned that the original design of the GGS would have included only two treatment groups: one fed pure glyphosate, and a second fed Roundup BioFlow, the new GBH formulation containing quaternary ammonium surfactants that is now used in Europe. Roundup BioFlow replaced the POEA-surfactant based Roundup brands that were banned by the EU in 2016 over human-health concerns. As originally designed by the RI, the GGS would have been of limited relevance in the US. Over the last 50 years most applicators and farm workers in the US, and in most other countries outside of the EU, have been exposed to a formulated GBH containing POEA-based surfactants, such as Ranger Pro. In response, Dr. Perry and I suggested to RI colleagues that they should add Ranger Pro to the GGS. The RI scientists said they could do so, but that additional funding would be needed to cover the added cost. The Heartland Study Management Team requested a budget from the RI that called for payment of about $950k over five years. The HS Management Team concluded that the scientific and regulatory value of the GGS in the US, and indeed worldwide, would be markedly enhanced if the GGS included a second POEA-based formulation, such as Ranger Pro. The HS MT therefore agreed to provide the requested funding to the RI on the condition that the funding required to meet the RI payment schedule would not come at the expense of sustaining planned Heartland Study clinical research activities. In mid-2020, the Heartland Health Research Alliance (HHRA) was incorporated and took over governance, administrative functions, and fundraising supporting the Heartland Study. By the end of 2020, HHRA had also taken over management of all then-existing Heartland Study contracts, agreements, staffing and consultant contracts, and fundraising, including all activities arising from the HHRA-RI partnership. Looking back, the decision by the HSMT to cover the costs of the added GGS treatment group was a risky one, which increased the challenges inherent in concurrently funding both the Heartland Study and the Ranger Pro feeding groups in the GGS. However, the addition of the RangerPro treatment group has already paid off. It has provided valuable information that would not otherwise be available. Most importantly, it has shown that RangerPro and other POEA-based GBH formulations are among those most likely to cause leukemia Going forward, the RangerPro exposure groups will help resolve critical questions on whether and how exposures to glyphosate or GBHs might be contributing to reproductive problems, birth defects, and developmental anomalies, as well as cancer and other chronic metabolic diseases. Given that glyphosate-based herbicides remain by far the most heavily applied pesticides in the US and globally, with well over three-quarters of humankind exposed on a near-daily basis, time is of the essence in seeking clarity on the adverse health outcomes stemming from exposure to this herbicide.  

  • Phil Landrigan New Study in Rats Establishes Strong Link Between Roundup Exposure and Early Onset Leukemia

    By Philip Landrigan, MD, Chair, HHRA Science Advisory Committee The Ramazzini Institute (RI) is concluding its five-year Global Glyphosate Study (GGS), the most detailed independent study ever conducted on the toxicity of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs). The study integrates three parts: a two-year cancer bioassay in rats; a two-generation rat reproduction study, and a full battery of in vitro and in vivo genotoxicity assays. The study examines three forms of glyphosate: pure glyphosate; Roundup BioFlow, a GBH form used in the EU; and Roundup RangerPro, a GBH heavily used in the USA.  Each form was administered to the rats via drinking water at three dose levels – 0.5, 5.0 and 50 mg/kg/day. These exposure levels are generally considered safe by regulators. Exposures began in prenatal life. There was also a control group not exposed to any glyphosate. A full set of FAQs describes design features and study goals, and the results of GGS pilot studies (need for independent research, study design and endpoints, and impacts on the microbiome). Three unique features of the Ramazzini Institute’s Global Glyphosate Study distinguish it from all previous studies: It studies real-life exposures:No previously published long-term carcinogenicity or multi-generational lab studies have examined glyphosate’s toxicity at real-life exposure levels generally considered safe. It is comprehensive and independent:Hundreds of studies have been carried out on glyphosate by both the pesticide industry and independent scientists using high doses over long-term periods. None, however, have been both comprehensive (covering long-term toxicity, carcinogenicity and multi-generational effects) and independent of the pesticide manufacturing industry. It examines whether Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor:The GGS previously published a pilot study showing endocrine and reproductive toxicity in rats at glyphosate doses currently considered safe by US regulatory agencies. These findings were later confirmed in a human population of mothers and newborns exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy. Instead of testing maximum tolerated dose levels, as in the case of glyphosate cancer bioassays conducted by GBH registrants, the GGS is assessing the health effects of doses that are much closer to real-world exposure levels. The GGS dose levels include the EU Acceptable Daily Intake level of 0.5 mg/kg/day, 5 mg/kg/day (10-X the EU ADI), and the EU No Observable Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) of 50 mg/kg/day. These doses are 100-fold to 1,000-fold lower than the doses in registrant-commissioned toxicology studies. First Key Findings Released On Oct. 25, 2023, the RI released the first major findings from the GGS rat cancer bioassay. The press release states:  “A multi-institutional international toxicological study has found that low doses of glyphosate-based herbicides cause leukemia in rats. Importantly, half of the leukemia deaths identified in the study groups occurred at an early age.” No rats in the unexposed control group died of leukemia. Four leukemia deaths were recorded in the rats exposed to pure glyphosate. Three leukemia deaths occurred in the rats exposed to Roundup BioFlow. Seven leukemia deaths occurred in the rats exposed to Ranger Pro. In the formulated GBH treatment groups, the higher the glyphosate dose, the greater the number of leukemia deaths. In its presentation of results, the RI team stressed that:  “An additional very important finding is that about half of the leukemias deaths seen in the glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides groups occurred at less  than one year of age. In previous studies, no case of leukemia was observed in the first year of age in more than 1600 historical controls in carcinogenicity studies conducted by either the Ramazzini Institute or the US National Toxicology Program (NTP).” The RI team still has substantial work ahead to finish analyzing all of the tissues collected in the three legs of the GGS. They must conduct careful statistical analyses to ferret out statistically significant links between glyphosate or GBH exposures and markers of adverse health effects One of their most important challenges – and opportunities – is to combine insights from each of the three parts of the GGS into a cohesive, consistent set of findings that identify how exposures to glyphosate and GBHs can impair health, as well as the mechanisms leading to reproductive problems or chronic disease. The time it will take the RI to complete the core scientific papers reporting the results of the GGS will depend on their success in raising additional funding. Once the first round of papers is  complete in 2024, the RI looks forward to pursuing several additional, collaborative research projects to explore glyphosate/GBH roles in epigenetic change, impairment of the microbiome, and impacts on children’s development and metabolic disease. The addition of the RangerPro treatment group has provided valuable information that would not otherwise be available and shown that RangerPro and other POEA-based GBH formulations are among those most likely to cause leukemia. The RangerPro exposure groups may help resolve critical questions on whether and how exposures to glyphosate or GBHs might be contributing to reproductive problems, birth defects, and developmental anomalies, as well as cancer and other chronic metabolic diseases. Given that glyphosate-based herbicides remain by far the most heavily applied pesticides in the US and globally, with well over three-quarters of humankind exposed on a near-daily basis, time is of the essence in seeking clarity on the adverse health outcomes stemming from exposure to this herbicide.

  • Russell King | Executive Director Findings from study of rats spotlights the importance of the Heartland Study

    By Russell K. King, HHRA Executive Director A multi-institutional international toxicological study has found that low doses of glyphosate-based herbicides cause leukemia in rats, according to a press release issued October 25, 2023, by the Ramazzini Institute in Italy.  Half of the leukemia deaths identified in the study groups occurred in rats younger than a year old. There are those, of course, who have an interest in discounting science that suggests glyphosate in food may cause health problems for those who ingest it, and the easiest and most common way to do that is by dismissing the study as being about rats, not people.  That shines a bright light on the Heartland Study, because what we’re investigating is precisely that:  The human health affects, if any, of ingesting food treated with herbicides, including glyphosate. Of course, any dismissal of rat studies as insignificant for humans is disingenuous and often intended to mislead people who have low science literacy. Just 28% of Americans are scientifically literate. I’ve written before about the difficulties created by people undermining science for their own purposes.  I’ll be happily surprised if the Ramazzini study does not encounter those difficulties. The fact is, laboratory rat studies have made invaluable contributions to understanding and improving human health–from cardiovascular medicine, to neural regeneration, addiction treatment, wound healing, major depressive disorder, diabetes, transplantation, behavioral problems, space motion sickness, and more. Rats have also been widely used to test drug efficacy and safety. The success found through experiments using lab rats is thanks to the robust overlap among the physiological, anatomical, and genetic between rodents and humans. These similarities are key in being able to compare the results from rat experiments to the potential effects of the same treatment or condition in human beings. So, yes, the results of this enormous study of rats is an important signpost directing us to examine the health affects of glyphosate in humans.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing. You can help support our vital research. Please do.  

A Father’s Reflections on Football, Dandelions, and Why We Started The Heartland Study

by Charles Benbrook | Jun 4th, 2021
by Charles Benbrook | Jun 4th, 2021
On days too hot for football in the park, kids in our Palo Alto neighborhood in the early 1960s often met at a friend's house where a slip and slide was set up. Imagine exposure levels when kids indulged in slip and slide on a lawn sprayed with 2,4-D by ChemLawn a few days earlier.

My parents moved the family to a kid-centric community in Palo Alto, California as I entered the 6th grade. Through junior high, a favorite way to spend the afternoon in the spring, especially after a day or so of rain, was touch football at the nearby park. The wetter the field the better. Sure, it was hard to hold onto the ball, but it was so much fun when a play ended with two of three kids sliding through a mud hole.

By the end of some games, plays were designed and executed to bring about just that outcome.

Years later, and well after I had become professionally entrapped in the world of pesticide use, risks, and regulation, a single herbicide seemed to always be in the news: 2,4-D. It was one-half of Agent Orange. An impurity in it was the single most toxic chemical known to humankind. The list of adverse public-health consequences caused by it was already a long one. Vietnam veterans regrettably played a starring role in the 1980s and 1990s as the list of confirmed, adverse human health outcomes grew.

Plus, 2,4-D was almost certainly the herbicide of choice in the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Department when spring rains brought on the prodigious crop of dandelions that blessed our football fields and community lawns every year.

As I learned more about how the human body responds to 2,4-D — itching, acne, and sometimes much worse — I remembered how I would sometimes want to tear off my muddy tee-shirt and hurry home for a shower to wash off my back whatever was setting it afire. And the damn acne…let’s not go there. (Note that there we have much more on the health impacts of 2,4-D in our bibliography).

For years I worried that my youthful exposures to 2,4-D might have a more serious impact on my health or my children’s genes. As I grew older, the first concern faded but I continued to wonder if those football games in the park might have played some role in the genetic roulette that gave rise to my three kids.

From my work with The Heartland Study science team, I now understand that my exposures to 2,4-D likely had little or no impact on my kids. Instead, any impact of 2,4-D on my genes likely came about from 2,4-D exposures experienced by my mother and father, especially exposures around the time I was conceived.

My mother grew up in a Boston suburb and my dad was raised in a heavily agricultural region in Nebraska. So, if 2,4-D or any other agricultural pesticide played a role in making me me, my personal genetic twist of faith likely came from my father.

Today, whenever I pass a soccer or ballfield covered with kids, I wonder if their skin ever burns after sliding though a mudhole in the spring.

I hope that the groundskeeper responsible for the fields children now play on have learned that a few well-timed mowings in the spring work just as well as herbicides in keeping ahead of dandelions and other weeds.

Mowing is not a perfect weed control solution. It requires the burning of fossil fuel and disrupts the peace and quiet on Saturday afternoons. But before we know it, all the mowers next door will be electric and will go round and round in near silence.

Then, finally, that burning sensation after a spirited spring soccer or football game, or barefoot frisbee with the dog will become nothing more than a distant memory, and that will be progress.


______________

HHRA is developing protocols to help determine whether, to what extent, and how today’s rising levels of exposure to 2,4-D and other herbicides are contributing to reproductive problems and adverse birth outcomes. Connecting dots that might link contemporary 2,4-D exposures to adverse birth outcomes triggered from the dad’s side of the reproductive equation is why The Heartland Study invites all fathers-to-be to enroll in the dad’s side of our project.

For more on herbicide-induced male reproductive concerns:

The recently released book Countdown by our friend Dr. Shawna Swann traces forty years of science and insights on how a father’s DNA can impact birth outcomes. Key discoveries on sperm quality and health have been made over the years by scientists conducting studies on 2,4-D, and many are featured prominently throughout the book.

A Heartland Study Co-PI, Dr. Melissa Perry, did her doctoral research on sperm quality and has conducted several important studies on the topic. Learn more about her work in this profile, or enter “Perry” in the HHRA bibliography search engine. A search using the keyword “2,4-D” will provide easy access to around 50 published papers, including most of the important ones on 2,4-D and sperm quality that are discussed in Countdown.

 

 

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