Investigate glyphosate connection to unidentified brain disease: Neurologist

The neurologist who first raised the possibility of a mysterious neurological disease in New Brunswick is now urging the federal government to test the environment for glyphosate, suspecting the widely-used herbicide is connected to the disease cluster in the Moncton and Acadian Peninsula areas.

The Guardian and Telegraph-Journal reported this morning, March 2, that neurologist Dr. Alier Marrero sent a letter to Canada’s top public health official and New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health on Jan. 30.

According to the Guardian:

Marrero sent a letter … warning them of “troubling” new developments and pleading for action and warning some of his patients were in “advanced stages of clinical deterioration and near end of life”.

Among those developments, he said recent laboratory tests on a number of patients showed “clear signs of exposure” to glyphosate, as well as other compounds linked to herbicides, adding that many of those tested had levels “many times over the detection limit,” according to the letter obtained by the Guardian.

Marrero said he was not requesting the study of any “mysterious diseases” but was instead concerned the presence of glyphosate and other compounds could be linked to known toxins in the region, known for their harmful effects on the brain.

“Moreover, I underline again that many of our patients are young. This is concerning as it is quite rare for young patients to present with such symptomatology.”

Forestry companies in New Brunswick spray approximately 15,000 hectares of public forest with glyphosate-based herbicides each summer to kill hardwoods and vegetation that compete with the spruce, fir and pine they grow in plantations.

New Brunswick uses more glyphosate per hectare of harvested forest than any province in Canada, according to a report from New Brunswick’s top doctor in 2016.

In September 2022, the Conservation Council reported that glyphosate spraying is up 30 per cent in the Crown forest since 2005.

J.D. Irving, the province’s largest forestry company, consistently sprays the most each year. And its volume of spraying is trending up even steeper—spraying on Crown land clearcuts harvested and managed by Irving increased 55 per cent between 2005 and 2022.

Bayer, the company that now produces glyphosate, has been ordered to pay millions in damages to cancer victims who were exposed to its products. In June 2022, the US Supreme Court refused to hear two appeals from the company trying to get out of paying.

Meanwhile, also in June 2022, a California appeals court ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency to review its 2019 glyphosate re-authorization, saying the agency did not adequately consider the human health and ecological risks associated with its use.

The same thing happened here in Canada in February 2022, when the Federal Court of Appeal sent Health Canada back to the drawing board on its 2017 glyphosate renewal, and gave the department strongly-worded direction on how to conduct a proper review to avoid “the endless merry-go-round” of court applications.

The Conservation Council has called on the government to ban spraying in the public forest for more than a decade. Learn more about our work here.

Stay tuned to this space for updates as this story develops.

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