A California jury ruled that Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, must pay over $2 billion to a couple who say the weed killer caused their cancer. This is the third major decision against the company surrounding their product’s link to cancer since August.
The Alameda County jury in Oakland agreed that Roundup caused Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and awarded them each $1 billion in punitive damages, along with a combined $55 million in compensatory damages, NPR reported.
However, legal experts believe that total will go down significantly after the company appeals the ruling.
Bayer, the subsidiary of Monsanto that makes Roundup, insists that the weed killer is safe to use, and said that they will appeal.
The couple have been battling cancer for the last nine years, Alberta, 76, said after the ruling, and she said that their illness has significantly affected their quality of life.
“It changed our lives forever,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We couldn’t do things we used to be able to do, and we really resent them for that.”
They had used Roundup at home and on multiple properties they bought and renovated, the couple told The Guardian, and they did not use protective gear because they didn’t think it was needed.
“If we had been given accurate information, if we had been warned, this wouldn’t have happened,” Alberta said.
The first ruling against Monsanto came in August, when a man with terminal cancer who worked as a golf course greenskeeper won $289 million, which was later reduced to $200 million. The case opened the floodgates against Monsanto, who face an estimated 13,000 lawsuits for their products, and in March, a second man was awarded $80 million.
Bayer said that Roundup has no link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Bayer is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal the verdict in this case,” they said in a statement, and argued that the Pilliods had previous health issues that could have caused their cancer. “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 also pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s stance that the weed killer is safe to use, despite concerns about the chemical glyphosate in Roundup. The government agency reasserted its position in April, and said it “continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”
However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Dr. Robb Bassett, the associate medical director for the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, previously told PEOPLE that further scientific testing is needed, and at the moment, people should take as many precautions as possible when using these products. He recommends limiting skin exposure as much as possible by wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves, and to wash the product off immediately if it comes in contact with the skin.
“The general rule in toxicology is removal from exposure is 90 percent of the battle, so doing whatever it takes to take it off the skin,” he says. “We teach our junior doctors that the solution to pollution is dilution, and that using soap and water can minimize that concentration and remove the chemical immediately — it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.”
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