Monsanto must pay $2 billion (Ksh. 200 billion) to a California couple who claim carcinogenic chemicals in the company’s weedkiller, Roundup, gave them cancer, a jury ruled Monday.
The company faces a slew of over 13,4000 lawsuits over the product, which uses glysophate, a pest-killing chemical that may raise cancer risks – a risk that three courts in a row have now ruled the company failed to warn consumers of.
Both Alva and Alberta Pilliod have battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after they used the weedkiller on their property for some 30 years.
Despite this third consecutive loss, Bayer – which now owns Monsanto – continues to deny fault, claiming that many studies over the years have found the chemical safe and non-carcinogenic, as did a recent EPA ruling.
‘We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence, in this case, was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case,’ Bayer said in a statement.
In 2016, Alva Pilliod was sure his wife, Alberta, was dying of the same cancer he had suffered – and now the pair is convinced they both got it from Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, according to reporting on their testimony from Courthouse News Service.
Both Alva and Alberta testified against the company this year in one of the many ongoing lawsuits claiming that Roundup may cause cancer.
Alva tearfully recounted watching Alberta deteriorate and suffer from non-Hodgkins lymphoma years after he’d beaten the same disease.
Alberta and Alva are in remission now – but neither they nor their lives have ever been the same since the cancer attacked their bones or brains.
And now the pair, both 76, are among countless others that want to hold Monsanto accountable for the chemical they believe nearly killed them.
Their testimony comes as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry releases a draft of a highly-anticipated report on glysophate, the chemical the Pilliods say sickened them.
For the better part of their 50 years of marriage, the Pilliods say they sprayed their properties with Roundup.
They relied on the market-dominating weedkiller to keep their lawns tidy and weed-free – as did countless Americans – for 30 years.
Neither half of the couple ever questioned what the blockbuster weedkiller might do to humans.
They didn’t suspect Roundup when Alva developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma over eight years go. And not even after Alberta started feeling dizzy and off balance, in the spring of 2015.
Alberta specifically recalls putting off seeing her doctor when she first started to feel off that spring, because she’d been preparing to travel with her granddaughter to Maui, where her son lived.
She was already feeling unwell, the flight made matters worse, the trip was difficult and draining and ‘on the way home, I felt worse, if that was possible,’ she told the Superior Court of Alameda County in California.
As soon as she returned from the trip, Alberta went to Stanford University for a doctor appointment.
Just like Alva had, Alberta had the most common form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
But where Alva’s cancer had struck his spine and hip, Alberta’s had caused lesions on her brain. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma attacks a form of white blood cells, so it can occur in the lymphnodes or many other parts of the body, including bone, like Alva’s spine and hip, or in the brain, as was the case for Alberta.
They type of lymphoma that they both had grows quickly, and Alberta feared she wouldn’t see her 75th birthday.
She survived her first bout with the cancer, only to relapse in 2016.
Alva was terrified, and even lost his composure on the stand, according to CNS.
A terrifying miscommunication Alva to believe that his wife had died one day, and he was told she’d been moved.
‘I thought she meant the morgue,’ he said.
Alberta had survived, after having to be revived the night before, but she was frail and heart-breakingly confused.
‘She didn’t have a hair on her head. She was just staring at nothing. She didn’t know who I was,’ Alva told the court.
Now, Alberta has joined her husband in remission, but the cancer took a toll on her.’ At 76, she is weaker than she once was, the lesions on her brain have permanently impaired her mental function, and she told the court she’s embarrassed of her uneven gait.
‘I wobble all over. I’m dizzy all the time, I fall a lot.’
She and Alva finally stopped using Roundup in 2016, but the damage they now blame on its chemicals was done.
Up until then, Alberta would even joke with Alva that it couldn’t be dangerous, comparing it to ‘sugar water.’
‘The ads made me feel like it was safe,’ she explained.
But when she developed the same cancer he’d had, Alva began an inquisition of any possible cause. He found an article suggesting a link between Roundup and cancer.
He didn’t spare a moment, taking every ounce of the weedkiller at the Pilliod home straight to a hazardous waste dump as soon as he got home.
If he’d known any sooner that Roundup might raise the risks of cancer for himself and Alberta, ‘I wouldn’t have had it on my property,’ Alva told the court.
‘I wouldn’t want it near me or my family.’