A prospective observational study of the clinical toxicology of glyphosate-containing herbicides in adults with acute self-poisoning

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2010 Feb;48(2):129-36. doi: 10.3109/15563650903476491.


Context: The case fatality from acute poisoning with glyphosate-containing herbicides is approximately 7.7% from the available studies but these have major limitations. Large prospective studies of patients with self-poisoning from known formulations who present to primary or secondary hospitals are needed to better describe the outcome from acute poisoning with glyphosate-containing herbicides. Furthermore, the clinical utility of the glyphosate plasma concentration for predicting clinical outcomes and guiding treatment has not been determined.

Objective: To describe the clinical outcomes, dose-response, and glyphosate kinetics following self-poisoning with glyphosate-containing herbicides.

Methods: This prospective observational case series was conducted in two hospitals in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2007. We included patients with a history of acute poisoning. Clinical observations were recorded until discharge or death. During a specified time period, we collected admission (n = 216, including five deaths) and serial (n = 26) blood samples in patients. Severity of poisoning was graded using simple clinical criteria.

Results: Six hundred one patients were identified; the majority ingested a concentrated formulation (36%, w/v glyphosate). Twenty-seven percent were asymptomatic, 63.7% had minor poisoning, and 5.5% of patients had moderate to severe poisoning. There were 19 deaths (case fatality 3.2%) with a median time to death of 20 h. Gastrointestinal symptoms, respiratory distress, hypotension, altered level of consciousness, and oliguria were observed in fatal cases. Death was strongly associated with greater age, larger ingestions, and high plasma glyphosate concentrations on admission (>734 microg/mL). The apparent elimination half-life of glyphosate was 3.1 h (95% CI = 2.7-3.6 h).

Conclusions: Despite treatment in rural hospitals with limited resources, the mortality was 3.2%, which is lower than that reported in previous case series. More research is required to define the mechanism of toxicity, better predict the small group at risk of death, and find effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / pharmacokinetics
  • Glycine / poisoning
  • Half-Life
  • Herbicides / chemistry
  • Herbicides / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health Services
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult


  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine