Containers of Roundup are displayed on a store shelf in San Francisco, on Feb. 24, 2019. Credit: Haven Daley / AP

A chemical linked to cancer in humans and used in aerial pesticide applications over parts of Maine has been found in more than 80 percent of urine samples from children and adults around the country, according to a recent study by the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC found out of 2,310 samples of urine taken from the U.S. population, 1,885 contained detectable traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, as reported by The Guardian.

Roughly a third of those sampled were children between 6 and 18 years old.

Roundup is widely used by farmers and gardeners in the U.S. It’s also used as a forest management strategy to promote growth in timber plantations.

The study raises new concerns over synthetic chemicals including glyphosate used by large timber companies in Maine, where in 2021 Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill that would have banned the aerial spraying of those chemicals by companies such as Canadian-based J.D. Irving Limited.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer at the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as “not likely” to cause cancer.

Last month, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the EPA used “inconsistent reasoning [that] cannot survive substantial-evidence review” in reaching their conclusion on the health risks associated with glyphosate. The EPA was ordered to give further consideration to the evidence of glyphosate risks.

The effort to ban the aerial spraying of glyphosate in Maine was spearheaded by Democratic Maine Sen. President Troy Jackson, who introduced the bill.

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In explaining her veto, Mills wrote that the bill did not ban the herbicides outright, rather it focused on the sole application method of aerial spraying.

Banning the spraying, Mills wrote, would force landowners to apply herbicides from the ground. That process is more labor intensive, has a greater potential for site disturbance and could require multiple applications of higher concentrations of the chemical.

“The environmental concerns associated with aerial application need to be balanced with the goal of decarbonization and the legitimate needs of silviculture enterprises,” Mills wrote.

Both the amount and prevalence of glyphosate found in human urine has been rising steadily since the 1990s, according to research published in 2017 by University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers.

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.