Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka Linked to Pesticides

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 18, 2012.  A new study pinpoints agricultural pesticides and fertilizers as the likely culprit for an incurable and deadly kidney disease that has afflicted thousands of Sri Lankans. As many as 400,000 people in the north-central region of Sri Lanka may be affected by the chronic kidney disease (CKD), and as many as 22,000 people may have died over the last two decades as a result.

“The reason for the spread is heavy metals in the water caused by the unregulated use of fertiliser and pesticides,” Dr. Channa Jayasumana, from the Faculty of Medicine at the Rajarata University in Anuradhapura, told Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS).

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government launched an investigation four years ago, testing the local environment and taking blood, urine and tissue samples. The results, which were released this summer in a one-page press release, pointed to cadmium and arsenic. Though cadmium is found in fertilizers, it is illegal to use arsenic-based pesticides in Sri Lanka. Dr. Jayamasumana is one of the doctors that has been engaging in research activities in the epidemic of CKD, and told Beyond Pesticides that they strongly believe that the main cause for CKD is poor quality agrochemicals.

According to a joint investigation by Public Radio International’s The World and the Center for Public Integrity, in the government’s press release, it states that farmers can protect their kidneys by stopping the “indiscriminate use of fertilizers and certain pesticides.” However, little has been done to spread the message to people who need to hear it. The doctors are frustrated with the WHO and the Sri Lankan government for not releasing these findings to the public and not taking action yet.

Dr. Palitha Bandara, the top health official in the North Central Province, told PRI that it is critical that the public’s exposure to the contaminants be reduced immediately “because day by day (they) will accumulate (in) the skin, blood and other peripheral organs, including kidneys.”

Sources: PRI’s The World, Inter Press Service News Agency

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.