Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is not as rare as you might think. It is actually quite common in the developed world where around one in 10 people are suffering from it.
CKD is permanent kidney damage and loss of renal function and it could significantly impact one’s quality and length of life. Now scientists at the University of Queensland found that CKD can be linked to a commonly available pesticide.
Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers have a bad reputation. We simply don’t like the idea that our food is grown with an extensive use of strong chemicals. But what can be done? Without these chemicals our food yields would be significantly shorter. Also, farmers would have to employ other weed and pest control methods such as more frequent ploughing, which is not great for the environment. We simply need to make sure that agricultural chemicals are safe for food and for those who work with it.
For some time scientists have been observing a worrying trend – cases of CKD have been increasing in such low income places like India, Sri Lanka and Mesoamerica. Typically, CKD has several risk factors, which are age, hypertension and diabetes. So why in these low income countries cases of CKD would be rising if the main risk factors for this condition are pretty much timeless?
Scientists have traced this phenomenon to agricultural workplaces. People working in farms are constantly exposed to heat, stress, dehydration and agrochemicals. In fact, scientists believe that spraying pesticides without personal protective equipment and working in freshly covered fields might be the thing to blame. Researchers also say that herbal medicine, popular in these places, is also not great, because it often contains heavy metals.
Dr. Nicholas Osborne, lead author of the study, said: “The findings suggest we should limit our exposure to pesticides, even in very small doses, as chronic exposure may lead to negative health outcomes. We will continue to investigate if other pesticides may be involved and are planning to collect data on Sri Lankan farmer behaviours to examine their level of exposure when using pesticides in the field.”
One of the chemicals to blame for the rise of CKD cases could be Malathion, which is a pesticide used in agriculture as well as in recreational areas. It is so common that it is hard to avoid. It is used in mosquito and fruit fly eradication programs and can sometimes be used as a topical head lice treatment.
Pesticides are especially difficult to avoid when they are used to treat people. But hopefully the situation in these low income countries can be improved through new, modern agricultural practices, encouraged by studies like this.
Source: University of Queensland