Scientists have found possible causes for chronic kidney disease ‘epidemic’ through research that suggests that a combination of high heat, toxins, and infections may be responsible for the increasing prevalence of chronic kidney disease 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. Recently, CKD has been prevalent among workers in hot climates. In the 1990s, the disease affected sugarcane workers in Central America. In 2012, 20,000 people in California, Florida, and Colorado died from the disease, but the cause remained unknown.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz (CU Anschutz) Medical Campus looked at all the available studies to consolidate the information and find potential gaps in research. The results of the study appear in the New England Journal of Medicine. 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. The researchers believe that high temperatures, caused by climate change, and pesticides, such as glyphosate, could play a role in this chronic disease “epidemic.”
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.
“It is my opinion that climate change plays a role in this epidemic,” Dr. Johnson says. He points out that CU Anschutz is currently looking at the health of workers and how climate change is impacting the disease.