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ToxFAQs™ for Glyphosate

ToxFAQs PDF PDF Version, 161 KB


This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions (FAQs) about glyphosate. It is one in a series of summaries about hazardous substances and their health effects. It is important you understand this information because these substances may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present. For more information, call the ATSDR Information Center at 1-800-232-4636.


What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in weed killer products such as RoundUp™. Glyphosate products are one of the most widely used weed killers worldwide in farms and in home gardens and lawns. These products typically contain glyphosate in combination with other ingredients that help improve the absorption of the glyphosate into the plant. Glyphosate-based formulations (GBFs) are easily bought in most stores. These products can have different combinations of other ingredients or different concentrations of glyphosate.


What happens to glyphosate in the environment?

  • Plants can absorb glyphosate through their leaves.
  • Glyphosate sticks tightly to soil and is quickly broken down by bacteria.
  • Some glyphosate may stay in the air for a short time when it is being sprayed on plants, but glyphosate does not normally enter air from the soil.
  • Glyphosate does not normally enter water unless it is sprayed onto water surfaces.
  • Glyphosate does not build up in the food chain.

How can I be exposed to glyphosate?

  • Glyphosate may get on unprotected skin and eyes when it is sprayed.
  • You may breathe in glyphosate while you spray it on plants.
  • You may be exposed to very small amounts of glyphosate from food.

Always wash your hands after applying ANY weed killer.

Do not let kids or pets play on or touch areas where weed killer has been applied until after 24 hours have passed.


How can glyphosate affect my health?

If a large amount is swallowed, glyphosate can cause nausea and vomiting. It can be very irritating if it is left on your skin or eyes.

Glyphosate has been associated with respiratory effects (lung and nose), such as irritation in the nose, or asthma, in workers using glyphosate products.

Studies in animals have shown that glyphosate can cause developmental effects (problems with growth) when the pregnant animals were given very large amounts of glyphosate.


Can glyphosate cause cancer?

There have been several agencies and organizations both in the United States and internationally that have reviewed studies and made an assessment about whether glyphosate could cause cancer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classification for glyphosate is “not likely” to be carcinogenic (causing cancer) to humans, based on evidence from animals and humans.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as “probably” carcinogenic to humans, which means there was sufficient evidence to find cancer in animals, but limited evidence finding cancer in humans.


Can I get a medical test to check for glyphosate?

There are tests to measure glyphosate in blood and urine. However, these are not part of a standard health test. The tests may only tell you if you have been recently exposed to glyphosate.


How can I protect my family from glyphosate exposure?

Always follow the directions on the label when using a product with glyphosate.

  • Wear protective clothing and eyewear.
  • Do not stand in the spray or let it drift on you.
  • Do not let the chemical stay on your skin or get in your eyes.

Always wash your hands after applying ANY weed killer.

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while applying weed killer, and always wash your hands before eating.
  • Do not walk barefoot on a sprayed area for 24 hours after it is applied, or wait until after a rainfall orwatering.
  • If you have a garden, thoroughly wash all produce prior to eating, and be sure to wash your hands after handling plants that have been treated with the product.
  • Make sure that children stay away from all pesticides and areas recently treated with pesticides.
  • Do not let kids or pets play on or touch lawns, gardens, golf courses, parks, or other grassy areas after weed killer is applied until 24 hours after it is applied, or wait until after a rainfall or watering.


Where can I get more information?

If you have questions or concerns, please contact your community or state health or environmental quality department or:

For more information, contact:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop S102-1
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO · 888-232-6348 (TTY)
Email: Contact CDC-INFO

ATSDR can also tell you the location of occupational and environmental health clinics. These clinics specialize in recognizing, evaluating, and treating illnesses resulting from exposure to hazardous substances.

Contact Us:
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    4770 Buford Hwy NE
    Atlanta, GA 30341
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • New Hours of Operation
    8am-8pm ET/Monday-Friday
    Closed Holidays
    Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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