The latest Roundup cancer trial enters its fourth week today as lawyers for the married couple of Alva and Alberta Pilliod continue to lay out evidence they say shows the husband and wife both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma because of their extended use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
One or both of them are expected to take the stand by Thursday to tell jurors their personal accounts of the toll cancer has taken on their lives. The two used Monsanto’s herbicides for many years, spraying an estimated 1,512 days in total on four different properties. Their testimony will follow video-taped testimony the plaintiffs’ attorneys are presenting of additional witnesses this week.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys plan to rest their case next week, giving the lawyers representing Monsanto and its German owner Bayer AG a chance to bring in experts and other witnesses to testimony for the defense.
The Pilliod case is the third Roundup cancer trial. Juries in the first two cases found for plaintiffs, agreeing with allegations that exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides cause cancer and that Monsanto has actively worked to hide information about the risks of its products for decades.
Thousands of additional lawsuits are pending against Monsanto. Last week U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing roughly 800 of the lawsuits, order Bayer and plaintiffs’ attorneys to enter into mediation talks regarding a potential settlement.
Before jurors adjourned for the week last Thursday they heard testimony about “dermal absorption” issues with Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides and how the common formulations Monsanto sold contained an ingredient referred to as POEA, a chemical with toxicity found to be 40 times stronger than glyphosate alone. Regulators such as the Environmental Protection Agency have not required Monsanto to provide long-term studies on the actual formulations that it sells, including those with POEA, which has been banned in Europe.
Plaintiffs’ expert witness William Sawyer, who is a forensic toxicologist, told jurors that along with POEA Monsanto’s herbicide products carried dangerous contaminants, such as formaldehyde. Overall, Roundup is about 50 times more genotoxic than glyphosate alone, Sawyer testified.
He also told jurors about how the product absorbs easily into human skin, even if someone spraying the herbicide is wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jeans.
“If a person is sweating and those pants are moist, it then gives a kind of a conduit for the
material sprayed on the clothing to flow through the wet garment onto the wet skin. And it increases the what we call the dermal exposure quantity….” Sawyer testified.
In discussing dermal absorption studies, Sawyer testified that typically the study of dermal absorption rates of a substance into human skin is done by applying the chemical to skin taken from a human cadaver or from tissue removed from surgery patients. The skin is then cooled to maintain viability. But for some dermal absorption testing of it Roundup products, Sawyer said Monsanto engaged a laboratory that essentially baked the skin samples before applying the herbicide for the absorption tests, after which absorption rates were reported to be near zero.
In cross-examination, a Bayer attorney elicited Sawyer’s acknowledgement that he was not certified by the American Board of Toxicology, and that the Pilliods could have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma without exposure to Roundup.