Bayer Settles Roundup Cancer Suits for Over $10 Billion
In one of the largest civil settlements in U.S. history, Bayer agreed Wednesday to pay more than $10 billion to resolve around 95,000 cases claiming its glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup causes cancer.
The deal will still allow Bayer to sell Roundup without adding any warnings, The New York Times reported. It comes after three juries in early, high-profile trials awarded more than $2.4 billion to plaintiffs who developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after long term Roundup use.
"Even Bayer's billions can't magically make glyphosate's well-documented links to cancer disappear," Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) senior scientist Nathan Donley said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "Bayer only settled after three multi-million-dollar verdicts over the past year from jurors who, unlike the EPA, wisely put more trust in the safety assessments of independent scientists than in Monsanto/Bayer's confidential reviews of its own product."
Even as they settle, @Bayer officials continue to deny Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicides cause cancer. “The extensive body of science indicates that Roundup does not cause cancer, and therefore, is not responsible for the illnesses alleged...”https://t.co/45xQPai62f— carey gillam (@careygillam) June 24, 2020
The debate over Roundup's safety is ongoing, The New York Times explained. In 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said that glyphosate could "probably" cause cancer, but other regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have ruled it safe. However, critics point out that many of these safe rulings were based on studies provided by Monsanto, the company that developed and sold Roundup before it was acquired by Bayer in 2018.
Per the terms of the settlement, the question of Roundup's safety will now pass to an independent "Class Science Panel," U.S. Right to Know (USTK) reported. The panel will decide if Roundup use can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and at what levels of exposure. Both Bayer and any future plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit will be bound by its findings. Until those findings are released, a process likely to take years, plaintiffs cannot bring any claims or seek punitive damages.
In the deal, Bayer earmarked $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to settle 75 percent of current cases and $1.25 billion for any future claims. The three cases already decided by juries, currently in appeal, are not included.
Both plaintiff lawyers and Bayer celebrated the agreement.
"After years of hard fought litigation and a year of intense mediation I am glad to see our clients will now be compensated," Mike Miller of the Miller law firm told USRTK.
Bayer, meanwhile, seemed eager to escape the shadow cast on the company after it acquired both Monsanto and its legal challenges. Bayer's stock price plummeted after the three juries ruled against it, The New York Times pointed out.
"First and foremost, the Roundup™ settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end," Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said in a statement.
Bayer has reached a series of agreements to resolve major legacy Monsanto litigation in the U.S.— Bayer AG (@Bayer) June 24, 2020
Learn more: https://t.co/crqNTLIkVd
However, not all the plaintiffs bringing claims against Bayer agreed to the settlement. The company still faces at least 30,000 claims, according to The New York Times.
"This is nothing like the closure they're trying to imply," Fletch Trammell, a Houston-based lawyer who represents 5,000 of the people bringing those claims, told The New York Times. "It's like putting out part of a house fire."
Also on Wednesday, Bayer settled two other lawsuits inherited from Monsanto, The Guardian reported. First, it will pay $400 million to settle claims related to dicamba, another herbicide that can drift to other crops and kill them.
"The settlement announced today is an important step to making things right for the farmers who just want to be able to put food on the table of America and the world," lawyer Joseph Peiffer of Peiffer Wolf law firm, which represents farmers with dicamba claims, told USRTK of the second herbicide settlement.
Bayer will pay a further $820 million to settle "most" claims related to PCB, a toxic chemical that Monsanto produced until 1977 that contaminated U.S. water supplies, The Guardian reported.
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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By James Shulmeister
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to email@example.com
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?<p>The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14145" target="_blank">four million years ago</a> during a geological period known as the <a href="http://www.geologypage.com/2014/05/pliocene-epoch.html" target="_blank">Pliocene Era</a> (between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago). The world was about 3℃ warmer and sea levels were higher than today.</p><p>We know how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere contained in the past by studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. As compacted snow gradually changes to ice, it traps air in bubbles that contain <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/enclosure-of-air-during-metamorphosis-of-dry-firn-to-ice/09D9C60A8DA412D16645E6E6ABC1892F" target="_blank">samples of the atmosphere at the time</a>. We can sample ice cores to reconstruct past concentrations of carbon dioxide, but this record only takes us back about a million years.</p><p>Beyond a million years, we don't have any direct measurements of the composition of ancient atmospheres, but we can use several methods to estimate past levels of carbon dioxide. One method uses the relationship between plant pores, known as stomata, that regulate gas exchange in and out of the plant. The density of these stomata is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095968369200200109" target="_blank">related to atmospheric carbon dioxide</a>, and fossil plants are a good indicator of concentrations in the past.</p><p>Another technique is to examine sediment cores from the ocean floor. The sediments build up year after year as the bodies and shells of dead plankton and other organisms rain down on the seafloor. We can use isotopes (chemically identical atoms that differ only in atomic weight) of boron taken from the shells of the dead plankton to reconstruct changes in the acidity of seawater. From this we can work out the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean.</p><p>The data from four-million-year-old sediments suggest that <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2010PA002055" target="_blank">carbon dioxide was at 400ppm back then</a>.</p>
Sea Levels and Changes in Antarctica<p>During colder periods in Earth's history, ice caps and glaciers grow and sea levels drop. In the recent geological past, during the most recent ice age about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were at least <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5517/679.abstract" target="_blank">120 meters lower</a> than they are today.</p><p><span></span>Sea-level changes are calculated from changes in isotopes of oxygen in the shells of marine organisms. For the Pliocene Era, <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2004PA001071" target="_blank">research</a> shows the sea-level change between cooler and warmer periods was around 30-40 meters and sea level was higher than today. Also during the Pliocene, we know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07867" target="_blank">significantly smaller</a> and global average temperatures were about 3℃ warmer than today. Summer temperatures in high northern latitudes were up to 14℃ warmer.</p><p>This may seem like a lot but modern observations show strong <a href="https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/23/14/3888/32547" target="_blank">polar amplification</a> of warming: a 1℃ increase at the equator may raise temperatures at the poles by 6-7℃. It is one of the reasons why Arctic sea ice is disappearing.</p>
Impacts in New Zealand and Australia<p>In the Australian region, there was no Great Barrier Reef, but there may have been <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02537376.pdf" target="_blank">smaller reefs along the northeast coast of Australia</a>. For New Zealand, the partial melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is probably the most critical point.</p><p>One of the key features of New Zealand's current climate is that Antarctica is cut off from global circulation during the winter because of the big <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v54i5.12161" target="_blank">temperature contrast</a> between Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. When it comes back into circulation in springtime, New Zealand gets strong storms. Stormier winters and significantly warmer summers were likely in the mid-Pliocene because of a weaker polar vortex and a warmer Antarctica.</p><p>It will take more than a few years or decades of carbon dioxide concentrations at 400ppm to trigger a significant shrinking of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. But recent studies show that <a href="http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/521027/" target="_blank">West Antarctica is already melting</a>.</p><p>Sea-level rise from a partial melting of West Antarctica could easily exceed a meter or more by 2100. In fact, if the whole of the West Antarctic melted it could <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.695.7239&rep=rep1&type=pdf" target="_blank">raise sea levels by about 3.5 meters</a>. Even smaller increases raise the risk of <a href="https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/preparing-new-zealand-for-rising-seas-certainty-and-uncertainty" target="_blank">flooding in low-lying cities</a> including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.</p>
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