The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), reveals that the malathion insecticide and glyphosate herbicide are potentially carcinogenic.

On Friday, March 20, the IARC released a statement that glyphosate, malathion and diazinon (also an insecticide) are classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Malathion is widely used for controlling mosquito populations in agricultural land, public areas, residential landscapes and more.

The use of malathion has been long debated in Winnipeg, Canada, where the chemical is sprayed in public areas during summer to control adult mosquito populations since many people want bug-free outdoors. Some experts suggest that malathion does not cause cancer in humans if used properly. However, the people of Winnipeg do not want malathion to be used.

While the IARC stated that there is not enough evidence to support the claim that malathion is carcinogenic and causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma and prostate cancer in humans, malathion nevertheless caused the development of tumors in lab mice. The chemical also brought about chromosomal and DNA damage in mice.

Glyphosate, on the other hand, is one of the key ingredients in the herbicide Roundup, which is produced by Monsanto, the largest seed company in the world. The chemical is widely used to get rid of unwanted weed across the world. The IARC reported that it may be carcinogenic to humans.

"The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals," stated the IARC.

However, the cancer agency also revealed that for glyphosate, "there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma."

Glyphosate is believed to be safe for use in the U.S. Monsanto officials do not support the IARC's findings and issued a press statement reaffirming the safety of glyphosate on human health.

"As consumers ourselves, the safety of our products is paramount to each of us who work at Monsanto, and our company is built on a foundation of science. All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product," said Dr. Philip Miller, vice president of Global Regulatory Affairs at Monsanto.

Dr. Miller highlighted that in January this year, German government officials finished a four-year study for the European Union about glyphosate. The findings revealed that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

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