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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Colorado: Young Sugarcane Workers at High Risk of Kidney Function Decline

Researchers from the Center for Health, Work and Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health have published a paper studying the decline in kidney function for young, first-time sugarcane workers in Guatemala. The study, led by University of Colorado instructor, Ms. Miranda Dally, is the first to examine kidney function decline in workers starting their first day on a job with a high risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu), a rising epidemic in rural workers in Central and South America.

The study found that workers who entered the sugarcane workforce with even slightly lower than average kidney function were at a greater risk for a rapid onset of kidney injury once they start work. 47 percent of all first-time workers entered the workforce with mild hypertension, another significant risk factor. Additionally, those workers who live in coastal communities were found to be a high risk compared to seasonal migrant workers from the mountainous highlands.

“Our work establishes that there is a subgroup of people for whom their occupation can make them more susceptible and more vulnerable to reduced kidney function,” said Ms. Dally. “Previous research on CKDu has looked at this health crisis as an occupational disease. While occupation plays a role in contributing to the disease, it does not tell the full story.”

Based on this study, the research team recommends that blood pressure and renal function screenings become a routine part of health monitoring for workers and community members at risk of CKDu, specifically those performing intense labor in hot environments.

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