Monthly Archives September 2016
Published On Sep 08, 2016
A Killing Heat
Warming temperatures may be causing a global wave of kidney disease.
In the Chichigalpa region of northwest Nicaragua, male sugarcane workers have been dying at such alarming rates that locals have named the region the “land of widows.” The culprit is chronic kidney disease (CKD). But while CKD is most commonly caused by hypertension and diabetes—both of which can damage the delicate filters the kidneys rely on to remove waste from the body—most of the victims there don’t suffer from either condition.
This epidemic isn’t confined within Nicaraguan borders. In the past two decades, CKD has killed an estimated 20,000 people throughout Central America, and has also claimed victims in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Some researchers believe that the common denominator is intense heat and dehydration, according to an assessment report in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in May 2016. The reason for the sudden uptick in deaths, the authors say, may be a warming planet.
“We are seeing a new type of CKD and climate change appears to be exacerbating the issue,” says Richard J. Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Hospital Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., and a co-author of the report. “CKD may well be one of the first epidemics because of global warming.”
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