NCP kidney disease: Questions and answers


Mr. R. Upatissa Perera writing from Beliatta has explicitly opened up the question of using bio-fertilsers and bio-pesticides as the key to reducing water contamination and eliminating Kidney disease of ‘unknown orign' (CKDU). There have also been several timely articles in The Island such as the excellent one by Dr. U. P. de S. Waidyanatha serialised on its April 29 and 30 issues on CKDu.

There is a lot of merit in ‘organic agricultural practices', named ‘naturopathic' by Mr. Perera. Here I will not discuss the feasibility (or otherwise) of using organic agriculture to feed 21 million people living on a limited landmass and weather we can be competitive in our tea and rubber crops with the help of organic agricultural methods.

Instead, let me remark on the main assumption underlying Mr. Perera's article and several others. The main assumption is that the water table in the dry zone where CKDU occurs is polluted due to the use of fertilizers and pesticides. There these fertilizers and pesticides are excessively used by our farmers as evident from the algal blooms and in the growth of aquatic weeds. However, the World Health Organization (WHO)-sponsored study of CKDu specifically addresses the question of the quality of the water in the affected areas.

On page 14 of the report we are told that a study of 234 samples of water from the affected area, as well as 32 additional samples of water showed NO excessive amounts of Cd, Pb or As. The additional 32 samples were studied because a few samples in the first 234 samples showed border-line Arsenics, i. e., a few parts per billion on the borderline of the WHO-allowed amount.

• Hence we have to conclude that the water table is not contaminated with Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and other toxins studied in the WHO report! So Mr. Upatissa Perera's main assumption needs to be revised.

• Furthermore, women, old people and children, and livestock show a very low incidence of CKDU compared to the male-worker group (age 18-65 years)!

• The women and children eat the same food as the males, and so the problem cannot be also the eating of contaminated vegetables and fish.

• Even more surprisingly, workers in the tea industry where similar fertilizers and pesticides are used even more heavily show no CKDu!

Both Dr. U P de S Waidyanatha and Prof. Dharmawardana have pointed out that all these facts are consistent with male workers not drinking adequate amounts of water while working under the hot sun. This dehydration prevents the kidneys from flushing out the traces toxins and hence they accumulate and causes CKDu.

Hence, without further delay, some charitable organization or the government must immediately begin to give these workers a bottle of water each day to take to work. Given that the Rajarata water-table is clean (if we accept the WHO study), this water can simply be the same Rajarata water consumed by the female population in the Rajarata who remain healthy. Drinking eight glasses of water during working hours is indeed a good naturopathic practice.

Bodhi Dhanapala,


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