What Killed Jack McCall ? …

Standing on the ridge overlooking her coastal California farm, Teri McCall sees her late husband, Jack, nearly everywhere. There, atop the highest hill, is where the couple married in 1975—two self-described “hippies” who knew more about how to surf than to farm …


“Literally hundreds of times a day, something reminds me of him,” McCall tells me as I stand beside her on the ridge one bright spring morning a few months after Jack’s death. Her tears start to flow. “That’s part of why it’s so hard to believe . . . to know that even if I search the whole world, look everywhere, I can’t find him now.” She shakes her head. “So hard to believe I can never see him again” … 

Anthony “Jack” McCall, age sixty-nine, died on December 26, 2015, after a painful and perplexing battle with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that forms in the lymphatic system and can appear almost anywhere in the body …

The loss is certain, fixed forever in his family’s heartbreak. But questions about why and how he was stricken—a man who never smoked, who stayed fit, and who had no history of cancer in his family—swirl around his use of the popular weed killer Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate …

McCall shunned pesticide use on his farm, except for Roundup. He didn’t like the idea of synthetic chemicals floating around the orchard, where he grew apricots, peaches, plums, and apples, or near his precious avocados. But Roundup was marketed as having extremely low toxicity, nothing that a small farmer like Jack needed to worry about …

He would drive twenty to thirty miles from his farm, to buy his favorite weed killer. He would then apply it himself, spraying the pesticide all around the farm to beat back worrisome weeds. He even recommended Roundup to friends in the small community, telling them it was supposed to be much safer than alternatives and touting its effectiveness …

The death of McCall, and the illnesses and deaths of other farmers and glyphosate users like him, have come amid revelations of a number of hidden dangers associated with the chemical, including links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma …

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has spiked over the past several decades, making it the tenth most common cancer worldwide, with nearly 386,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 alone …


Many scientists have been studying the rise in NHL seen over the past forty years, especially for farmworkers exposed to pesticides. And many have warned that glyphosate and Roundup could be contributing to a range of diseases and ailments …

The people most at risk are people who use glyphosate a lot, such as farmers and gardeners …

It was Christmas Eve 2015 when Jack was admitted to the hospital for what would be the final time after he suffered a massive stroke. Cancer had spread from an initial lump in his neck throughout his body, and he was weak from chemotherapy and other treatments. His body simply could not take any more. Family and friends gathered at his bedside on Christmas Day to say their goodbyes before Jack slipped into a coma that he would not come back from. He died the day after Christmas when Teri allowed his doctors to remove life support. “I wanted to tell him not to leave me, but I couldn’t do that to him,” Teri recalled. “I couldn’t make it harder for him to go” …

Paul McCall, who stepped in to run the farm in his father’s place said …

“I threw it all out. I just use dish soap mixed with some vinegar and salt now. It works just as well,” he said. “It’s no secret Roundup is bad for you. They got rid of DDT. They need to get rid of this too” …

Extracts from Whitewash by Carey Gillam