Climate change responsible for uptick in kidney disease?


INTRO: In its early stages, chronic kidney disease can lurk silently in the body, causing no symptoms at all. Eventually, as these vital organs fail, the hands and feet start to puff up, and sufferers feel nauseated, achy, and itchy. When the disease reaches its last stage, the kidneys fail and you can die.

Around 2000, health officials noticed that chronic kidney disease was on the rise in Central America. An epidemic seemed to be raging among farmworkers who toiled in sugarcane fields on the Pacific Coast in El Salvador and Costa Rica — one of the hottest areas in the region. To date, more than 20,000 people have died in the epidemic, and thousands of others have had to go on kidney dialysis to survive. Researchers are now coming together around a hypothesis about what’s driving a little-appreciated epidemic, known as “Mesoamerican nephropathy.”

The main suspect: global warming. It has become a leading hypothesis to explain not just Mesoamerican nephropathy but a similar uptick in chronic kidney disease in India and Southeast Asia. The victims could be called “climate canaries.”


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