Is Roundup Safe to Use?

Using one of the best weed killers is a great start to a weed-free garden. In an effort to rid our garden of weeds my wife and I have been looking into a lot of different weed killers. We have pets and children that often play in and around our vegetable garden. The most well known of the weed killers is Roundup, but I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Roundup.

So, is Roundup safe to use? Extensive scientific research has concluded that risks associated with Roundup’s main chemical, glyphosate, do not pose a concern to human health or environmental health. However, this is assuming that Roundup has been used according to proper instructions.

When Roundup is used correctly and in accordance with its manufacturer’s instructions, it is a fairly reliable and safe product, although there has been some skepticism in the last several years. This skepticism has lead to an abundance of scientific studies by large organizations, which almost all seem to agree that Roundup is safe when used correctly.  How do you use Roundup correctly, though? How does it work? Also, what else is in it? Just how safe is it for humans, animals, and pets? You’re probably wondering, but don’t worry – let’s walk through what you need to know about Roundup and its safety.

An Overview of Roundup’s Safety

It’s been found by reputable sources in scientific studies that Roundup isn’t harmful to humans or the environment. However, we can dive into this a little deeper. Many people have pets or animals that live near them and wonder about Roundup’s potential risks to animals. They also wonder about Roundup’s potential risk to vegetables and crops. Possibly because of rumors and speculation, some also wonder if Roundup is carcinogenic, or if it can cause cancer. There are different answers and details for all the questions Roundup users may have, so let’s get into some of them!

Is Roundup a Carcinogen?

Several years ago, a lawsuit was launched against Roundup’s manufacturer, Monsanto, claiming that Roundup caused a man to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Following the media coverage of the lawsuit, many became wary of using Roundup for fear that it was harmful to humans. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer attempted to classify glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, as “probably” carcinogenic to humans. However, many scientists and national regulatory institutions disagreed with the IARC’s classification and cited their research methods were biased and flawed. Additionally, there were reports that the IARC disregarded important studies showing the opposite: that glyphosate is actually safe and not a carcinogen.

Since the IARC’s report, many reputable institutions and studies have conducted scientific studies to reevaluate the safety of glyphosate. Within the last year, many of these studies have been released and concluded that glyphosate and Roundup are safe to use correctly, and didn’t pose any risks to human health; they also found that glyphosate is highly unlikely to pose a human cancer risk. These studies were conducted by agencies like Health Canada and the Agricultural Health Study in the United States, just to name a few.

With this information, we can conclude that Roundup is not a carcinogen as was previously believed. Roundup is still comprised of many chemicals and should always be used with care and according to proper instructions.

Is Roundup Toxic to Humans?

As per Health Canada, the Agricultural Health Study, and other studies, there have not been many instances in which Roundup has been found to be toxic to humans. Before products like pesticides (and even household cleaners) are approved for market, the companies that manufacture them must submit toxicity studies on the entire formula and its composition. All pesticides are evaluated for toxicity and toxic effects, and in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency categorizes this toxicity. Category I is considered the most toxic, where Category IV is considered the least toxic. Glyphosate, Roundup’s active chemical, is classified as a Category IV. This means it has very low acute toxicity after being inhaled or ingested orally or through the skin.

According to the EPA, there is no evidence of glyphosate having reproductive or developmental toxicity to humans. Additionally, there is no evidence of neurotoxicity, genotoxicity, and glyphosate does not cause any malformations of the body.

There are of course other chemicals in Roundup, and Roundup should not be ingested orally or dermally and those using it should try not to inhale it. However, if accidents happen, there’s no need to worry too much: glyphosate has not been shown to cause toxicity to humans. As always, though, if you ingest a chemical, call the poison control hotline to get some additional information and ease your mind. Again, following Roundup’s proper instructions for use and taking care when using Roundup is always the best method of action.

Farmer spraying pesticide in Thailand

Is Roundup Safe for Pets?

Many of us have pets that we love and adore. Oftentimes, our pets are outdoors with us or go outdoors on a frequent basis. When using Roundup outdoors, pet owners and Roundup users may worry about the safety of Roundup for their furry friends.

According to Roundup’s label, the weed killer is safe for pets to walk on as soon as it’s dried completely. This is mostly for the benefit of others, though; if pets track wet Roundup onto other plants or grass, it can harm and kill the plants. Additionally, if pets ingest wet Roundup, they might have an upset stomach, drool excessively, lose their appetite, or become tired. Wet Roundup could also cause some skin irritation to your pets. Because of this, you’ll want to have a “backup” area for your pets to go outside if you plan on using Roundup.

As long as you have a backup area for your pets to wander while your Roundup is drying, and give Roundup ample time to dry before letting your pets venture back into the area, it is safe for pets. Also, like for humans, there is no evidence of toxicity to pets from the glyphosate. 

Does Roundup Get Into Vegetables?

This is a popular question among those who garden or those who may use Roundup on or near vegetables. The good news is, although Roundup kills plants, it’s generally safe to use around vegetable gardens as long as it is used as the instructions intend. Like we talked about earlier, glyphosate doesn’t move very far down in the soil, especially not past plants’ root systems. It also can’t move through the soil to other plants. Additionally, it breaks down in a few days to a week.

If planning on spraying weeds in a vegetable garden, in order to make sure your vegetables aren’t harmed, you’ll need the right equipment. The best is said to be a sprayer with a nozzle that can be adjusted to narrow width. It’s also useful to have a hose nearby and available so you can spray Roundup off any plant surfaces you didn’t intend it to be on. Additionally, you can use a piece of plywood or plastic to “shield” other plants and vegetables from the spray of Roundup.

With caution and the proper tools, your vegetables should be safe from Roundup!

All About Roundup

If you’ve ever been concerned about the safety of Roundup, or are considering using it, it’s extremely helpful to know what the weed killer is made of, how to use it and how it works. 

Roundup’s Ingredients

Like we’ve already established, Roundup’s main active chemical and ingredient is glyphosate. However, there are a few other ingredients that make up the popular herbicide. These are the ingredients in Roundup, and what they do:

  • Glyphosate
    • This chemical is a white, odorless powder in Roundup that prevents weeds and plants from making certain proteins needed for plant growth, essentially killing the plant or weed.
  • The ethoxylated tallow amine surfactant
    • Surfactants are chemical compounds that lower the surface tension between liquids. Ethoxylated tallow amine surfactants, in this case, are used to give Roundup its “wet” or liquified consistency.
  • Related organic acids of glyphosate
    • These organic acids aid in glyphosate’s usefulness.
  • Isopropylamine
    • Isopropylamine works along with glyphosate to prevent the making of proteins in plants needed for growth.
  • Water

How to Properly Use Roundup

Since we know Roundup is the safest when used correctly, it’s, of course, important to know just how to do so.

When getting ready to use Roundup, try to wait for good weather for the best results. Rain-free, less windy days are the best, as they prevent Roundup from washing away or drifting onto plants it wasn’t intended to be on. Roundup’s website states to make sure to only treat plants you want gone. Be careful to keep Roundup away from plants you don’t want killed. Additionally, treat the right spots of plants. Treat the leaves of plants, not the soil! This way, Roundup can work its way down through the entire plant and stop at the root source. Luckily, glyphosate (Roundup’s main chemical) doesn’t move through the soil to other plants.

How Roundup Works

Without getting too technical, we can understand how Roundup works. It has a lot to do with glyphosate, its main active ingredient. Once Roundup is sprayed onto leaves of undesired plants and weeds, the glyphosate is quickly absorbed into the leaves and shoots. Once it is absorbed, it won’t be broken back down and will start working its way through the plant(s). The glyphosate builds up in the meristems of plants, which are the areas of active growth. Glyphosate begins to stop the plant from making crucial growth proteins, which leads the plant to slowly degrade and die within a week or so.


Is Roundup for Lawns Safe?

Traditional Roundup is not safe for lawns, but Roundup’s manufacturer makes a special product for lawns called Roundup for Lawns. Roundup for Lawns doesn’t contain the chemical glyphosate and is a selective herbicide that only controls weeds that affects lawns, like dandelions and crabgrass. It doesn’t affect the turfgrasses in the lawn.

According to Roundup’s website, Roundup for Lawns takes about four hours to dry and the results of lawn weeds being killed start to show in two to three days. So, if you want to use Roundup for Lawns, make sure you are getting the product formulated specifically for lawns, not the regular Roundup product. Double and triple check if you need to!

Alternatives to Roundup

Not everyone will be convinced that Roundup is safe, and not everyone will want to use it, which is absolutely okay. A lot of people have wondered if there are alternatives to Roundup, and luckily, there are.

One alternative to Roundup is horticultural-strength vinegar. It can be found at a lot of hardware stores and plant nurseries. Vinegar is acetic acid, meaning it works chemically and burns plants until the leaves are gone. It can be diluted to be weaker or stronger if desired; people have been known to use vinegar for things like cleaning in addition to killing weeds. Vinegar also has low toxicity and is environmentally friendly. Plants and weeds treated with vinegar start to wilt within about 24 hours. There are a few catches to using vinegar instead of Roundup, though; vinegar will kill any plant it touches, including grass. Vinegar also doesn’t carry itself clear to the roots of weeds or plants like Roundup because it doesn’t contain glyphosate. If you think you’d rather take your chances of killing weeds organically, vinegar is an option.

Another alternative to Roundup is plain old weeding tools. You can skip out on spraying weeds to eliminate them by getting some good weed tools instead. With the right tools, like flexible weeder/hoe tools, you can bring weeds up from the ground (sometimes completely in one go) so they don’t come back. You can also try a hand sickle to cut roots of weeds right out of the ground. It’s more handiwork, and may require you to get down on the ground, but some prefer weeding tools to sprays or chemicals to eliminate unwanted weeds and plants.


Eyerly Family

The Eyerly Family is a family of 8 that loves gardening. Over the past several years we have been applying what we learn about gardening to our own 16x16 raised back yard garden. Our garden is very prolific and we grow a wide variety of vegetables which we love to eat! Click here to learn more about the Eyerly Family.

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