Mystery Disease Killing Thousands in Central America

Earlier this month, the Associated Press broke a story thatís getting surprisingly little attention Ė over the last 10 years, more than 24,000 people have died of kidney failure along the pacific coast of Central America, primarily in Nicaragua and El Salvador. The disease has been seen in smaller numbers as far north as Mexico, and as far south as Panama. In parts of Nicaragua, as many as 1 in 4 men are suffering from chronic kidney disease.

These rates are far higher than anywhere else in the world. And there is a trend among the victims Ė they overwhelmingly work in some form of manual labor. Itís not completely clear whatís causing the epidemic Ė some believe itís tied to the heavy use of pesticides and other toxic agricultural chemicals. However, that doesnít explain why those working in other industries, such as construction or mining, are also suffering from the disease.

Some doctors and scientists have hypothesized that the long, hard hours of work, combined with chronic dehydration and heat stress, may be triggering chronic kidney disease in people who have none of the typical risk factors (including diabetes and high blood pressure).† The connection hasnít yet been proven, but it seems to be the most plausible explanation at present.

There have been reports of similar problems experienced by workers in Egypt, India, Australia, Sri Lanka, and other harsh, hot climates around the world, but not in numbers nearly as high as those in Latin America. Experts suggest this may be because this form of chronic kidney failure has been largely unrecognized in the past Ė itís possible that kidney problems are going undiagnosed in these regions.

While some companies have taken precautions to try to ensure workers have access to water throughout the day, activists say that worker protections tend to be lax, and that there are many people with kidney damage who are forced to continue working due to a lack of alternative job opportunities.

Whatís most troubling is that these new findings regarding dehydration and heat stress arenít being well-publicized among farmers and other manual laborers in Central America. Many of them still believe the increasingly disfavored hypothesis that itís caused by toxins in pesticides Ė and so they arenít taking steps to ensure that theyíre remaining well-hydrated.


Related Stories:

Homicide Rate Highest in Honduras, El Salvador, Ivory Coast

Pesticides and Parkinsonís: Possible Link Must Be Investigated

How Bad U.S.-Latin American Policy Fuels Unauthorized Immigration

Photo credit: The Library of Congress


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Dent H.
Dent H5 years ago

Carol K, I hate to ask but in the UK does POS mean the same thing as it does here in the states? Piece of Shiit? It is interesting there are so many vegetables and fruit farmed in south America sent every where in the world. We are buying from countries who do not have many regulations for pesticides and other contaminates. We have been growing half of our veggies and fruit our self and that helps as the organic foods are five times more than the regular ones. In my older years now I consider all of the unwanted junk in our foods. Not knowing how the UK is set up for home gardens do many of you grow your own produce over there? It is pretty popular over here in the suburbs and country settings like where I live. Cheers to the UK!

Margie B.
Past Member 5 years ago


Renee Still Day
Renee Still Day5 years ago

The common sense answer to the so-called "mystery" would be Monsanto/DOW or any other number of chemical companies that are killing people, livestock, wildlife, poisoning our water sources and our land. If anyone still believes that Corporations are "people".....then these "people" need to be tried for murder. Now with their GE AND GMO foods they will finish us all off. It will be a slow death, but they are killing us none-the-less. Eat organic, grow your own, get your own chickens. I never thought I'd see the day when I began to talk or act like a "survivalist", but I AM a realist. It's the scariest thing I've ever learned about. Everyone not already educated in the attack on the World's produce by Monsanto, needs to start learning today. The first thing I would do is to watch this video clip and see WHY Fox News went to court to win the right to LIE to the public. Try covering up for Monsanto! Check it out:

Vicki P.
Victoria P5 years ago

Thank-you for the article... concerns of both adequate clean water and avoidance of pestisides are issues we should be taking seriously for everyone everywhere. ♥

Kathy M.
Kathy M5 years ago

Its sounds like they know what causes it but like all countries they are dragging their feet to correct the problem. So the poor workers suffer. While someone else cashes in on all the profits.If they have labors put in place there the companies will just pick up and move to other countries,like they have in the U.S..

Brian M.
Past Member 5 years ago

As climate change accelerates, disease pandemics will become more common.

Anne G.
Anne G5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

I think it's a combination of many things, but of course the poor conditions they work in play a big role.

Carol Kemp
Carol Kemp5 years ago

P.S. Glysophate is said to, pos., be responsible for Parkinsons.