WHO identifies cadmium and pesticides as root cause of kidney disease

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The WHO Coordinator, Chronic Diseases Prevention and Management (WHO-CCDPM), Prof. Shanthi Mendis, on Thursday (26), identified exposure to low levels of cadmium through food and pesticides, as the causative factors for the Chronic Kidney Disease of Uncertain Aetiology (CKDu).

Addressing a gathering of WHO representatives, researchers and doctors at the BMICH, to brief them on the collaborative research findings of CKDu, Prof. Mendis said that the people of the North Central Province (NCP) were also affected by the arsenic and lead found in pesticides and food. The disease could also be hereditary. The fact that patients also suffer from Selenium deficiency may also make them vulnerable to nephrotoxins which causes CKDu, she said.

The WHO had made several recommendations to the government to enable it to control the disease, which had increased the poverty levels of those suffering from it. Treatment was very expensive and patients were left with no other option. The affected areas of the NCP - especially Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Mahiyangana - should be provided with pipe-borne clean drinking water. "Don’t make them buy bottled water. A majority of patients as well as the rest of the population were of a low income level and they cannot be expected to purchase bottled water," she adviced.

The level of cadmium in the use of tobacco and beedi were very high as the tobacco retained a high level of cadmium - especially in the smoke. Not only users but even passive smokers were highly vulnerable to CKDu under such circumstances.

Prof. Mendis appealed to the people of the North-Central Province to curtail the consumption of the lotus yam due to its Cadmium deposit. Chena cultivators were more vulnerable than paddy farmers, she explained.

There were also nephrotoxic herbal remedies which should be halted. Sapsanda, which was used to treat poisonous bites was included in over 60 ayurvedic prescriptions. "However, further studies were required to objectively evaluate whether ayurvedic practitioners were using those remedies to treat patients," she said. If so they should be dissuaded from doing so.

The WHO CCDPM urged the government to test pesticides Cadmium, arsenic and lead, before importing. NCP farmers should be banned from using agro chemicals like Propanil, Diazinon, Carbaryl, Paraguat and Chlorpyripho.

The Government appealed to the WHO to research the CKDu which had been affecting the people of the NCP for a long period. The research was carried out in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Mahiyangana, while Hambantota was used as a control area. Over 66,650 persons were tested from over 20 devisional secretariats during the research.

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena invited more research into the disease which had also affected the lives of the people in his electorate.


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