Experts from the University of Colorado Anschutz (CU Anschutz) Medical Campus, have suggested that a combination of high heat, toxins, and infections may be responsible for the increasing occurrence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) among agricultural workers.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) involves the slow loss of kidney function. Kidneys keep the body healthy by filtering dangerous fluids and waste products from the blood. When kidney function is impaired, these products build up in the body and cause disease.
People with CKD may develop high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, and nerve damage. Also, kidney failure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. These complications may happen slowly over a long period.
Causes of CKD include diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent many complications. High blood pressure may cause CKD, which, in turn, may lead to high blood pressure.
According to The Guardian report 25 million Nigerians (13.9 per cent of the 180 million people) have kidney failure, a condition where the kidney can no longer work without dialysis or transplant, and millions of others are at risk. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all people with this disease.
Dr Dapo Majekodunmi, the clinical director at St. Nicholas Hospital Lagos, explained that out of the 25 million with CKD, about 18, 000 will need dialysis every year that is about 100 per one million of the population.
The research team found that agricultural workers, such as those who worked with sugarcane, cotton, and corn, as well as shrimp farmers and miners, are more likely to develop the disease compared with those who work at higher altitudes.
Sri Lankan farmers exposed to glyphosate showed a high risk for CKD. The researchers also investigated heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, which are common culprits of kidney injury in Sri Lanka and Central America.
Dr Lee Newman, the director of the Centre for Health, Work & Environment and a professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, who led the team said that some pesticides are nephrotoxic, and these could possibly contaminate the water supply.
Indeed, there are studies indicating that the epidemic in Sri Lanka is greatest in areas where there are shallow wells in which toxins might become concentrated,” added Dr Richard Johnson, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-author of the study.
Newman added that other possible causes, which are common among sugarcane workers, include infectious diseases that can affect the kidneys, such as the hantavirus and leptospirosis, and genetic factors. He explained further that heat exposure, heavy labour, and persistent dehydration are also culprits; this is not the usual kidney disease [because] it is not caused by high blood pressure or diabetes.
Speaking about the prevalence of the disease among rural workers, Dr Johnson added “They are the people who feed the planet. If climate change continues like this who is going to feed us?”
The results of the new study suggested that the cause of this CKD epidemic may be a combination of climate change, toxins, and infections.
Drs Newman and Johnson believe that institutions need to take action to prevent the epidemic by ensuring that workers take proper breaks, stay hydrated, and spend time out of the sun.
Dr Johnson and colleagues concluded by saying when clinicians detect clusters of patients with [CKD] who work for the same employer or in similar jobs, they should contact occupational health and safety and public health professionals to promote investigations of workplace conditions.