Common sense needed with chemicals

I will be honest up front — this column is not one of my typical columns. It is not a feel good, warm, fuzzy look at agriculture. This is an article that will make some people angry. This is an article that will probably get me stopped at the grocery store and read the riot act.

This is an article that some people will support. This is an article that will make some people think I am heartless.

Recently in California, a school groundskeeper sued Monsanto for his cancer, claiming Roundup caused it. He applied Roundup 20 to 30 times per year while at work and he had at least two accidents in which he was completely soaked with the product, according to CNN news. He has terminal cancer and will not live to see his two sons become adults.

Please do not get me wrong, I am incredibly sorry for the man. I hate that he will not live to see his sons become great men. He will not live to become a grandfather or even a great-grandfather. I understand. It is heartbreaking.

However, I do not believe that the awarding of $289 million is appropriate, especially considering that the awarding of that much money was to “mostly punish the agricultural company Monsanto,” as CNN reported.

This sets a dangerous precedent for many others. It leads to the idea that Roundup causes cancer. While I know that some of you may agree, there is no evidence that can prove that this is true.

If one soaks him- / her-self in anything dangerous motor oil — Roundup, gasoline, etc. — there is a good chance it will mess up one’s immune system and health. The problem stems from a lack of common sense and using products without proper training.

See, from a young age, I was warned that working with chemicals, Roundup included, was dangerous.

I was warned that I needed to avoid getting it on me, and if I did, I needed to wash the area quickly. I also needed to avoid breathing in the fumes and generally treat it as the chemical compound it is.

Certainly, if I were to accidentally be soaked in it, I would need to immediately hose off and wash with a heavy-duty soap.

Farmers though, have always had a special respect for most chemicals. Some of the things we work with will kill a person, no doubts about it. However, if Roundup was a quick killer, like this gentleman claimed, I think we would be out of farmers, since Roundup came about in the 1970s. He claimed his first accident happened in 2012 and his diagnosis came two years later.

The problem has come about when the public now has access to the same chemicals as farmers without the same amount of respect.

See, most farmers I know would never allow themselves to be soaked with Roundup. Why? It is a chemical! Some chemicals just should not be applied to the human body in a full body soaking.

However, the public loves the ability of Roundup to keep their lawns, patios, golf courses, schools and public parks free from unsightly weeds. This means that Roundup has been placed in untrained hands and has become almost as common as table salt.

Growing up, Roundup was mostly controlled by farmers; the public did not have access. In a way, Roundup has become so common it is no longer thought of as a chemical to avoid. However, in our desires for magazine-worthy lawns, we have forgotten that it takes chemicals to make those happen.

Chemicals, all chemicals, need to be handled as if they might kill a person. At one point, this was common sense. However, as the saying goes, common sense is not always that common.

In this case, I believe that common sense flew out the door and empathy strode into the room.

Empathy is a great emotion until it is used to punish a company that helps to feed, clothe and keep the world safe.

Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.