Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide globally, is an integral part of agricultural operations. However, the contamination of municipal drinking water with glyphosate residues poses a significant risk to public health.
By understanding the consequences of glyphosate contamination and taking appropriate measures, we can work towards protecting our environment and ensuring the provision of safe drinking water to communities.
This article examines the complex issue of glyphosate in water, the potential dangers of consuming it, how to remove it, and the necessity of implementing strict regulatory levels for glyphosate.
- Glyphosate is categorized by the EPA as a primary drinking water contaminant which has a Maximum Contaminant Level of 700 PPB in drinking water.
- Ingesting elevated levels of glyphosate has been linked to an increased risk of skeletal development issues, decreased infant body weight, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Glyphosate is extremely water-soluble and has a half-life of between 3 days and 120 days depending on the water composition.
- The best filtration treatment for glyphosate is granular actuated carbon (GAC), water distillation, and reverse osmosis, which can remove up to 99.9% of herbicides and pesticides.
- The best method to detect glyphosate in drinking water is to use a certified laboratory test that scans for pesticide contaminants.
What Is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is one of the synthetic compounds that is used as a nonselective systemic herbicide. It is particularly effective to control broadleaf weeds and aquatic plants. It is the active ingredient in many herbicide products.
It has been registered as a pesticide in the U.S since 1974 and is commonly used in many other countries around the world. Note that pesticide contaminants, like other volatile organic compounds, can infiltrate water sources.
Furthermore, glyphosate is a phosphonic acid derived from a reaction between the methyl group of methylphosphonic acid with the amino group of glycine. It’s one of the glyphosate-containing herbicides that attack the enzyme 5-enolpyruvyl-3-shikimate phosphate synthase (EPSPS).
As a broad-spectrum herbicide, glyphosate is effective at killing a wide range of plants upon contact. However, it is important to note that many crops in the United States have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been engineered to withstand the effects of glyphosate, allowing them to thrive even in the presence of this herbicide.
Types Of Glyphosate
Glyphosate is available in various forms to cater to different weed control needs. Understanding these forms is essential for selecting the right product for specific applications and ensuring responsible use. Let’s explore the different types:
The acid form of glyphosate is commonly used in agricultural areas. It serves as a pure, solid base that can be formulated into liquid herbicides by blending it with other ingredients. This flexibility allows manufacturers to customize glyphosate-containing herbicides to suit specific weed control requirements.
Glyphosate in the potassium salt form is a solid variant with enhanced water solubility compared to the acid form. This improved solubility enables quicker dispersion and better efficacy when applied as a liquid herbicide. Potassium salt is often employed in liquid formulations designed for agricultural and horticultural applications.
Isopropylamine salt of glyphosate is a liquid variant known for its improved solubility and stability. It is commonly found in commercially available glyphosate-containing herbicides like Roundup. This liquid formulation facilitates easy mixing and application, making it suitable for various weed control tasks in agricultural, commercial, and residential settings.
Mono- and Diammonium Salt
Glyphosate in the mono- and diammonium salt form is another liquid variant offering increased water solubility and stability. These salt forms enhance glyphosate’s performance, maintaining its efficacy even under diverse environmental conditions. They are commonly used in liquid glyphosate formulations, contributing to effective weed control.
The trimethylsulfonium salt form of glyphosate is a liquid variant with improved stability and water solubility. This form is particularly effective in controlling a wide range of weeds. It is frequently utilized in liquid glyphosate-based herbicides, especially those intended for agricultural and commercial applications.
Glyphosate in the sodium salt form is a solid variant with enhanced water solubility. This form readily dissolves when formulated into liquid herbicides, ensuring efficient herbicidal activity. Sodium salt is commonly employed in liquid glyphosate formulations for weed control in various settings.
Does Glyphosate Break Down In Water?
While glyphosate is soluble in water, its degradation can occur through various mechanisms. Microbial activity plays a significant role in the breakdown of glyphosate, where certain bacteria can metabolize it into aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) and other byproducts.
Factors such as temperature, pH, and the presence of other chemical compounds in water can influence the degradation rate of glyphosate. Additionally, exposure to sunlight can accelerate the degradation process through photodegradation. The solubility of glyphosate allows it to readily dissolve in water, facilitating its distribution and potential impact on tap water sources.
Understanding the degradation processes of glyphosate is crucial for assessing its persistence and potential effects on tap water quality.
Ongoing research and monitoring aim to gain further insights into the fate and behavior of glyphosate found in drinking water systems, ensuring responsible use and mitigating any potential risks to the aquatic ecosystem and drinking water supply.
What Is Glyphosate’s Half-Life In Water?
The half-life of glyphosate varies from 3 days to more than 170 days depending on the surrounding environmental factors. It exhibits a strong affinity for binding to soil particles, making it strongly adsorbed in soil. Microorganisms play a significant role in the primary decomposition of glyphosate in the environment.
In surface water bodies like lakes and ponds, the half-life ranges from 3 to 120 days, and the compound is moderately susceptible to photodecomposition, meaning sunlight can contribute to its breakdown.
Factors such as temperature, pH, microbial activity, and the presence of sediments influence the duration of glyphosate’s half-life.
How Does Glyphosate Get Into Drinking Water?
Glyphosate is one of the most common synthetic organic compounds found in water due to its widespread use around the world. Here are the primary sources of the chemical in drinking water.
Residues From Irrigation Water
Glyphosate residues in irrigation water, including recycled or reclaimed water, can potentially carry the herbicide into agricultural produce. When these crops are consumed or used for food processing, glyphosate residues can indirectly enter drinking water sources.
Mishandling or accidents during the transport, storage, or application of glyphosate-containing products can lead to spills or leaks. If these incidents occur near water bodies or on permeable surfaces, there is a possibility of glyphosate contaminating nearby drinking water sources.
Glyphosate can infiltrate into the soil and reach groundwater through percolation. This can occur when the herbicide is applied near wells or areas with shallow groundwater tables, and it subsequently leaches into the underground water sources.
Surface Water Contamination
Surface water sources such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs can become contaminated with glyphosate through direct application or runoff from treated areas. This includes gardens, lawns, or industrial sites located near water bodies.
Agricultural Runoff And Soil Erosion
The most common pathway for glyphosate to enter drinking water is through agricultural runoff and soil erosion. Glyphosate-based herbicides are extensively used in farming, and when these herbicides are applied to fields, excess spray or rainfall can cause runoff, carrying glyphosate and its residues into nearby surface water bodies or infiltrating into the groundwater.
Potential Health Effects Of Glyphosate In Drinking Water
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on evidence showing an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among agricultural workers exposed to glyphosate.
Studies have suggested a potential link between glyphosate exposure and multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow.
Certain types of leukemia, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), have also been associated with glyphosate exposure.
Animal studies have demonstrated that glyphosate exposure can contribute to kidney damage and dysfunction. It has been shown to induce oxidative stress and inflammation in the kidneys, leading to structural and functional abnormalities.
Glyphosate exposure has been associated with hepatotoxicity, which refers to liver damage. Studies have reported increased markers of liver injury and impaired liver function in animals exposed to glyphosate.
Pregnancy And Development Issues
A recent study found that over 90% of the pregnant women participating had elevated levels of glyphosate that correlated significantly to shortened pregnancy lengths.
What Is The Safe Level of Glyphosate In Water?
Glyphosate is classified as a primary contaminant in drinking water according to the regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act. It is subject to specific Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) requirements, which have been established at 700 parts per billion (ppb).
The EPA establishes these regulations to ensure that the glyphosate levels in drinking water do not pose any significant risk to public health. The MCLG takes into account the potential adverse effects of glyphosate exposure and aims to keep the concentration below a level that may cause harm.
Other organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have also provided guidelines and recommendations for glyphosate levels in tap water. The WHO guidelines on pesticides established an acceptable daily intake of glyphosate of 0.3 mg/kg of body mass. These guidelines serve as a reference for global water quality standards and help ensure the safety of drinking water worldwide.
How To Test For Glyphosate In Water
Tap water containing high levels of glyphosate can have an acidic, dry, or bitter taste. However, since humans are generally unable to smell or taste glyphosate at moderate levels, the best method to detect the chemical in water is with a certified lab test.
I recommend the Freshnss Labs water test kit that scans for harmful pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate. The kit includes everything you need to properly collect a water sample and send it to a certified lab to be analyzed by a professional.
Certified Lab Test
Since there is no DIY test method, detecting glyphosate contamination in water requires the services of a certified laboratory. Here are the general steps involved in testing for glyphosate in both tap and well water sources:
1 – Contact a certified laboratory
Identify a reputable laboratory that specializes in water testing and has the necessary certifications to perform glyphosate analysis. Ensure that the laboratory follows proper testing protocols and meets regulatory requirements.
2 – Collect water samples
Follow the specific instructions provided by the laboratory for water sample collection. Typically, this involves using clean, sterilized containers provided by the laboratory to collect representative samples from your well or tap water supply.
3 – Submit samples to the laboratory
Package the collected water samples as instructed by the laboratory, ensuring proper labeling and preservation. Use the provided pre-paid shipping for timely delivery to the laboratory for analysis.
4 – Laboratory analysis
The certified laboratory will perform the analysis using validated methods to detect and quantify glyphosate levels in the water samples. They will provide a detailed report of the results, including the concentration of glyphosate found in tap water.
5 – Interpretation of results
Review the laboratory report to understand the glyphosate levels in your tap water. The report will indicate whether the detected glyphosate concentration exceeds any relevant regulatory limits and include the best treatment methods based on your test data.
6- Consultation and further action
If the glyphosate levels in your tap water are above the acceptable limits or if you have concerns about the results, you can schedule a free consultation with the Freshnss water quality experts. They can provide guidance on appropriate actions to address the issue, such as implementing water treatment systems or seeking alternative water sources.
Proper testing and analysis are crucial to ensure accurate results and reliable information about glyphosate levels in tap water. therefore, it is essential to rely on certified laboratories experienced in glyphosate testing to obtain trustworthy outcomes.
How to Remove Glyphosate from Drinking Water
If your tap water has elevated concentrations of glyphosate, there are effective treatment methods to remove it. The best options to filter glyphosate are granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and water distillation.
Granular Activated Carbon
GAC filters are effective in removing organic contaminants, including glyphosate and other pollutants, from the drinking water supply. The activated carbon adsorbs the glyphosate molecules, trapping them within the filter media. GAC filtration systems can be installed at the point of entry (POE) or point of use (POU) to treat drinking water for an entire household or specific tap, respectively.
Reverse osmosis is a filtration process that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove contaminants from drinking water. RO systems are highly effective for glyphosate removal and for other volatile organic compounds. Water is forced through the membrane, which acts as a barrier to contaminants, allowing only pure water molecules to pass through.
Water distillation heats water until it evaporates, whereby it then collects the condensed water and leaves behind harmful contaminants. A water distiller with an activated carbon post filter is able to remove up to 99.9% of pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate and atrazine.
How To Reduce Your Exposure To Glyphosate
While the most well-known source of glyphosate is the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, residues of the toxic chemical have been found in common foods such as flour, fruits, vegetables, and infant formula. Here are some of the best methods to reduce your exposure:
- Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly and peel the skin off when possible. Ideally, purchase organic produce for heavily sprayed items like leafy greens, berries, and corn.
- Look for Organic or Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) labels when purchasing baby formula. Some brands are even specifically certified to be glyphosate-free.
- Buy foods that are grown in the U.S. or from local organic farms since some countries allow the use of pesticides and herbicides that are more toxic than glyphosate.
- Purchase textiles or clothing made from organic cotton as it will not be sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides.
- Use home lawn care products that do not contain high-risk pesticides and herbicides and are environmentally friendly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is glyphosate in drinking water safe to drink?
Yes, glyphosate is considered safe to drink within the regulatory levels. Although, glyphosate in drinking water has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Therefore, it is important to follow water quality guidelines and stay informed about changes in regulations to ensure the safety of drinking water.
Is there glyphosate in bottled water?
Yes, glyphosate can be present in bottled water. The presence can vary depending on the source and manufacturing processes. In some cases, traces of glyphosate have been detected in bottled water. However, it’s important to note that the levels detected are typically well below the regulatory limits set by authorities. Note that bottled water manufacturers are required to comply with strict quality standards and regulations to ensure the safety of their products.