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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU Study Finds Occupational Link in Kidney Disease Epidemic among Sugarcane Workers

Sugarcane workers in northwestern Nicaragua experienced a decline in kidney function during the harvest, with field workers at greatest risk, suggesting that heat stress or other occupational factors may be playing a role in the high rates of chronic kidney disease in the region, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers shows.

The study, published online in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, is a step toward identifying factors contributing to an unexplained epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Central America that disproportionately affects young, male agricultural workers.

The research team recruited 284 Nicaraguan sugarcane workers performing seven different tasks. They measured urine albumin and serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate—markers of kidney function—both before and towards the end of the harvest season. Workers were queried on the quantity of water and electrolyte solution packets they consumed during a typical workday. The mean age of the workers was 33.6; most were men.

The researchers found that kidney function declined during the six-month harvest season and varied by job category, and that workers with longer employment duration had worse kidney function. Over the harvest season, the decline in kidney function was greatest among seed cutters, irrigators, and cane cutters — jobs that require strenuous labor in a hot and humid environment. The results provide evidence that one or more risk factors for the disease are occupational, the authors said.

To read more about the study, go to: http://www.bu.edu/sph/2015/02/02/study-finds-occupational-link-in-kidney-disease-epidemic-among-sugarcane-workers/