Boston University researcher confirms occupational causes of CKDnT epidemic

26 May 2015

Last weekend at a regional forum for nephrology, Dr Daniel Brooks from Boston University explained the occupational factors influencing the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease of Non-traditional causes (CKDnT), highlighting that (among other factors) heat and dehydration are very likely to be major contributors. His statements are based on the study Boston University (BU) published earlier this year, in which occupational factors were identified to be among the risk factors of this deadly disease. Fairfood is pleased to hear Brooks publically confirming these findings once again as, up until the publication of the latest study, previous research by Boston University (led by Brooks) had denied that occupational factors were risk factors in any way.      

In the study, the BU researchers differentiated between various types of workers. The outcomes of the research for each of the worker groups confirmed the fact that one or more risk factors are occupational. As Brooks says: One or more risk factors (causes) are occupational. We are saying this because it is empirical evidence for the decrease in kidney function from which the workers are suffering during the harvesting season. Moreover, there are differences in the decrease between the different types of work, with the cutters being the most heavily affected.”

Brooks agreed with Doctor Pedro Orduñez from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), that CKDnT is a serious public health problem that has to be prioritised by the countries in which it prevails. It is directly related to poverty, agrochemicals and labour conditions.

Prevalence of CKD in Central America

CKD is causing many deaths in Central American sugar-producing nations. The PAHO has reported thousands of deaths caused by the disease. Between 2005 and 2009, the numbers reported were: 3,342 in Nicaragua, 874 in Costa Rica, 6,974 in El Salvador and 4,946 in Guatemala. Evidence suggests that these numbers have increased even further in recent years. These numbers include both CKD and CKDnT cases, however, since the traditional form of kidney disease – CKD – is a lifestyle disease mostly linked to obesity and diabetes, one can assume most of the reported cases are CKDnT-related.

As part of our Occupational Safety and Health programme, Fairfood is working to prevent further cases of CKDnT by ensuring companies implement labour standards that, among other things, inhibit heat stress and dehydration as the most important occupational risk factors influencing the disease.

This article is based on a report by Nicaraguan website Confidencial. For the full article (in Spanish), click here.