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Glyphosate is an aminophosphonic analogue of the natural amino acid glycine, which is a herbicide and crop desiccant. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broad-leaf weeds and grasses that grow along with cultivated crops. The reason this is so widely used is because it kills the weeds without damaging the crops in any way. But it does get absorbed readily by these crops too!
According to many studies that have been conducted over the years, Glyphosate is considered to be "probably carcinogenic in humans." Through dietary consumption, it does not pose much danger to a human.
However, when Glyphosate-based formulations come in contact with humans, they affect the body in various ways. Skin could be irritated, there could be severe burns, inhalation could cause discomfort in nasal cavities, etc. In more serious cases, it could lead to kidney or liver damage, metabolic acidosis, and hyperkalaemia and death, which often precedes.
This Glyphosate is known to affect pregnant women the most.
We know very well that even a slight reduction in gestational length can lead to lifelong adverse consequences. There could be permanent damage even before the birth of the child. Even if the child is born, there could be developmental defects in its body.
The Environmental Health unit conducted a survey in the United States for one of its papers on how Glyphosate is associated with pregnancy. Shahid Parvez, the principal investigator of this study and an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Science at the IU, and Richard M, Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, were actively involved in conducting this study.
They recruited 77 women of age groups ranging between 18 and 40 years, for a duration of one year, from June 2015 to June 2016.
Glyphosate was measured using the urine specimens of these pregnant women to measure direct exposure.
This study found that 93% of the women had significant levels of Glyphosate in their urine specimens.
The women who lived in the rural areas and consumed more caffeinated drinks were seen to have a higher concentration of Glyphosate than the women who lived in urban areas.
It was initially assumed that it was the public drinking water system that was the primary cause of a lot of this Glyphosate. But later, this assumption was disregarded after a test was conducted, in which none of the water samples tested for Glyphosate.
Now, the suspicion fell on the dietary intake of genetically modified food items and caffeinated beverages. And it was proven too. A lot of Glyphosate is used in corn and soybean production. The residue can enter the body directly on consumption of these foods.
"Although our study cohort was small and regional and had limited racial or ethnic diversity, it provides direct evidence of maternal glyphosate exposure and a significant correlation with shortened pregnancy," Parvez said.
On exposure to Glyphosate, certain lab animals have shown fetal malfunctions. It's not just the pregnant women, but the off-springs are likely to get affected too.
This herbicide affects the nervous system of weeds to kill them. And during your first trimester, when the nervous system of your baby is getting developed, you want to be as far away as you can from this herbicide.
It is the first trimester, which is the most vital. The neural tube is developing and the risk is the highest in this phase. If care is not taken, the Glyphosate could be directly fed through the breast milk to the baby even without being aware of it.
There are foods that are being specially cultivated without the use of this herbicide. People are beginning to get aware of its harmful effects and are opting for foods that are naturally cultivated.
To avoid getting affecting by Glphosate, a little care needs to be taken while selecting the food you feed to pregnant women. Also, if you live anywhere close to an agricultural land where these herbicides are used frequently, it would be wise to move away for those precious nine months.
Be aware and take care.