Medical experts examining pesticides and labor conditions as probable suspects
A new form of chronic kidney disease has been taking a deadly toll across Central America's "sugar belt," where sugar cane is harvested, from Mexico across to Costa Rica. Workers in the fields have fallen ill and died, as chronic kidney disease rates have begun to climb in poor farming communities.
Dubbed "chronic kidney disease of unknown causes," the condition has killed at least 20,000 people, and probably many more. The exact cause of the illness is uncertain -- but there are myriad suspects.
Help fill in the gaps with world hunger -- by going here --
Sugar cane fields are drenched in toxic agrochemicals. Cane cutters risk heat stress toiling long hours in sauna-like conditions. In addition, the fields they work are perfect for propagating deadly rat-borne pathogens.
The chronic condition is hitting communities the hardest in the volcano-studded plains of Nicaragua and neighboring El Salvador. Illnesses and deaths from chronic kidney disease are now four times the global rate. In El Salvador, it is currently the leading cause of hospital deaths for men.
Many laborers have died in the rural community of La Isla, or The Island, so much so that it has become known as "The Island of Widows." In Chichigalpa, the company town for Nicaragua's largest sugar producer, Ingenio San Antonio, almost a third of working-age men now have irreversible kidney damage.
Most puzzling about the sickness is that it breaks with known patterns of chronic kidney disease in industrialized nations. The condition is usually linked to high blood pressure and diabetes associated with aging and obesity. In the United States, the condition is slightly more common among women than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The epidemic rampaging across Central America is three times more prevalent among men, most of them farmworkers under 60 years of age who exhibit none of the other known causes.
The highly toxic agrochemicals sprayed and dusted on fields throughout Central America is the chief suspect behind the cause of the new epidemic.
In El Salvador, farmworkers said they applied extremely toxic weed killers including Paraquat and deadly organophosphate pesticides to their land using backpack sprayers -- without any more protection than a long-sleeved shirt.
"We didn't use masks, gloves or eye protection ... it was in direct contact with the skin," one farmer admitted.
Yet another theory is that kidney damage is wrought by repeated dehydration in the sun-blasted sugarcane fields, where machete-wielding laborers paid by the ton work week round at harvest time in temperatures above 90 degrees. The cane cutters could also be aggravating damage by slaking their thirst with high-fructose sodas that can harm kidneys, researchers said.
Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2015
General Intention: That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Missionary Intention: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christmas / Advent News
- Fr Peter M. J. Stravinskas: Epiphany and the Missionary Mandate of the Church
- Love is Born on Christmas Morn and the World is Born Again
- Father Peter M. J. Stravinskas on Christmas: In the Fullness of Time a Savior Has Come
- Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus was an Embryonic Person
- Amazing Realities of Christmas and the Incarnation
- Life is an Advent Search for God: The Importance of Effort
- Advent: Dominus humilitate adveniet: The Lord Will Come by Humility
- Advent: A Time To Seek Answers To Humankind's Most Pressing Questions
- Gaudete Sunday: We Rejoice Because the Lord is Always Near
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?