Retired Melbourne Gardener Files First AU Cancer Case Against Monsanto

11th June 2019 | hazardous chemical, hazards, health and safety, safer alternatives, work safety

This month, a retired Melbourne gardener brings the first Australian lawsuit against Monsanto, maker of Roundup. The plaintiff, Michael Ogalirolo, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. He believes that his cancer was caused by years of exposure to glyphosate, which is the active component in Roundup.

Nearly 20 Years of Roundup Use

Now 54, Ogalirolo worked in landscaping for 18 years and used Roundup two to three times a week during that time. He was forced to retire in 2015 due to poor health, and though his cancer has been in remission since February 2018, the future is still uncertain for the former gardener and his family. In his suit, Ogalirolo claims that Monsanto failed to warn him that using Roundup products was dangerous and had the potential to cause serious injuries, loss, and damage. He and his lawyers assert that Monsanto knew of the risks Roundup posed yet failed to provide warnings on their product.

Successful US Lawsuits

Last year, a former groundskeeper fought and won the first of such cases against Monsanto. Dewayne Johnson claimed that the popular weedkiller gave him cancer after almost three years of applying the product as part of his job. It has been nearly a year since that landmark conviction against Monsanto and its parent company Bayer.

Following Johnson’s win, a 6-member jury awarded Edwin Hardeman more than $80 million in damages in March 2019. Hardeman used Roundup to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. Meanwhile, a couple who used Roundup on their property for more than thirty years, and who were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma four years apart, were awarded a whopping $2 billion in May 2019.

Ripple Effect

Australian law firms are currently investigating potential legal action on behalf of others who are also suffering from cancers they believe are caused by Roundup. LHD lawyers in Sydney are considering a class action lawsuit against Bayer, while Maurice Blackburn is assessing individual cases.

The US verdicts have also raised concerns among local councils. In Sydney, Fairfield City Council has eliminated the use of products containing glyphosate, while other councils are minimising, abandoning or reviewing their use. Likewise, a Victorian government review into the safety of glyphosate is also underway. The review aims to examine whether the substance is being stored and handled appropriately, as well as to determine whether risks are “being controlled so far as reasonably practicable”.

Are the Concerns Founded?

Monsanto maintains that glyphosate is safe to use and does not cause cancer, citing the hundreds of studies that back up that claim, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Indeed, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority are satisfied that glyphosate-containing products are safe to use if directions provided on the label are followed.

The APVMA has also considered and rejected the results of a 2015 study conducted by the World Health Organisation that concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”, the same study which has spurred countless non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients to sue Monsanto. The fact that Monsanto is alleged to have actively tried to sway scientific research and news reports into the weedkiller product is not helping them win any case.

Corporate Responsibility

These cases against Monsanto serve as a cautionary tale for chemical manufacturers. It’s important that we do everything we can to provide non-toxic, non-hazardous chemical products. If we can’t do that, we must provide complete information pertaining to the dangers of products so consumers will be able to make informed decisions.

There are currently numerous cases globally and in Australia where known toxins used in Parts Washing, Brake Cleaning, Degreasing and Janitorial products have caused illnesses and premature deaths.

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