Glyphosate Facts

Transparency on safety aspects and use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Europe


BfR analysis of glyphosate in human urine samples confirms no health concerns

A new analysis carried out by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) confirms that glyphosate residues in human urine samples pose no health risks. © Eisenhans - In a critical review of seven studies1 the BfR found that the resulting exposure estimates in those publications were significantly below the “acceptable daily intake” (ADI)2 or the “acceptable operators exposure level” (AOEL)3 of glyphosate. ADI and AOEL levels represent the maximum amount of a substance to which an individual can be exposed (through contact or intake) without causing any harmful effects, with a large safety factor.

Two of the reviewed studies (Acquavella et al. and Mesnage et al.) focused mainly on farmers - a group who naturally experience a higher incidence of exposure to plant protection products than normal consumers. Even in these cases, the maximum exposure rate amounted only to 8.3% of the AOEL (Acquavella et al.) and 0.4% of the AOEL (Mesnage et al.) respectively.

In the study of Krüger et al. 2014, the maximum concentration of glyphosate found in urine samples corresponded to an intake of glyphosate below 0.2 % of the ADI, according to calculations in the BfR review.

Another widely debated publication reviewed by the BfR came from the Friends of the Earth. 182 urine samples from 18 European countries (6-12 participants from each country) were analyzed. The BfR reviewers criticized the study, due to the limited number of samples and absence of adequate information on study participants (such as age, gender, body weight, social background, origin from urban or rural environments and nutrition habits). The BfR highlighted problems regarding how participants were recruited, meaning that the study was far from representative. Crucially however, the maximum concentration of glyphosate found in those urine samples corresponded with an intake of glyphosate below 0.1 % of the ADI.

In its conclusion, the BfR noted that positive glyphosate findings in human urine arequite common and may result from occupational or residential exposure, from dietary intake or from both. However, the most important take-away from the review is that, "all measured values, even the highest, were of no health concern. The calculated human exposures were at least one order but mainly two or more orders of magnitude lower than the ADI and AOEL."

Niemann L, et al (2015), A critical review of glyphosate findings in human urine samples and comparison with the exposure of operators and consumers. in Journal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, (January 8, 2015), DOI: 10.1007/s00003-014-0927-3.
1 Acquavella et al. (2004); Curwin et al. (2007); Mesnage et al. (2012); Hoppe (2013); Markard (2014; unpublished report); Krüger et al. (2014); Honeycutt and Rowlands (2014)

2 0.5 mg per kg body weight

3 0.1 mg per kg body weight and day
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Last update: 24 February 2015