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Researchers call for Irish families to take part in study of controversial weedkiller

The Austrian government recently banned glyphosate products over fears that it could cause cancer.

Researchers want to analyse urine samples for traces of the chemical.
Researchers want to analyse urine samples for traces of the chemical.
Image: Shutterstock/Bannafarsai_Stock

A NEW PROJECT is seeking families to participate in a study to measure exposure to the herbicide glyphosate. 

Researchers at NUI Galway, along with the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine in Bochum, Germany are collecting urine samples from 50 non-farm families, and 50 farm families, to analyse them for traces of glyphosate. 

Specifically, they are seeking families with two parents and one child aged between six and 17 years to provide a sample, as well as complete a questionnaire. 

The herbicide is the active ingredient in over 750 products including the weedkiller RoundUp and is extensively used in agriculture and farming crops. 

It has prompted fears that it is being ingested through the human diet when residue remains on fruit and vegetables. 

The new research fellowship, awarded through the Irish Research Council, follows on from a four-year study that identified low levels of pesticide exposure among professional gardeners and amenity horticulture workers in Ireland. 

A previous NUIG study among horticultural workers also included urine samples being collected and analysed for the detection of glyphosate.

Of the 50 samples analysed, 10 – or 20% – of the participant’s urine samples had detectable trace levels of the chemical. 

Dr Marie Coggins, principal investigator of the Image project, said: “There is a lack of data across Europe on human exposure to chemicals such as pesticides.

“Although detectable levels were low, studies such as this one are required to fully understand how chemical exposures affect human health, and to inform policy and manage exposure.”

Governments across Europe have been reviewing the use of pesticides containing glyphosate over a feared link to cancers. 

Earlier this month, the Austrian government approved a total ban on glyphosate, putting the country on track to becoming the first EU member to forbid all use of it.

A 2015 study by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer found that the herbicide glyphosate was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, with a Group 2A classification.

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