On 21 March 2019 significant media attention was given to a case in the United States where a jury found that a commonly used weedkiller (Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based ‘Roundup’) played a significant role in causing a Californian man to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This case was also subject to a recent documentary on the ABC television programme Four Corners.
A jury in San Francisco awarded a grounds keeper, who was exposed to Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the amount of $78.5 million in damages. We do not have juries assessing damages in most Australian States including New South Wales, and in most jurisdictions, compensation or damages are strictly regulated and restricted.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a group of blood cancers that include all types of lymphoma except Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affect the lymphocytes, which is a type of white blood cell.
The incidence of exposure to toxic chemicals is quite common in Australia and indeed many people do not realise that their health could be at risk and do not take appropriate precautions when handling chemicals. Many commonly available herbicides could unknowingly expose a number of people to the risk of developing various types of cancers.
It should be noted that the manufacturers of many common chemical are some of the largest multinationals in the world and that Bayer AG (which purchased the company Monsanto which made Roundup), still deny that exposure to glyphosates can cause cancer.