Glyphosate implicated in epidemic of kidney disease among Sri Lankan agricultural workers
New research supports the possibility that combined exposure to heavy metals and glyphosate has a synergistic effect leading to high levels of heavy metals accumulating in the kidneys. This in turn causes chronic kidney disease of the type that is now a serious problem among agricultural workers in Sri Lanka.
There’s more about previous studies on this topic led by the same researcher, C. Jayasumana, here.
This year the Sri Lankan President announced a ban on glyphosate herbicide, partly due to the link with kidney disease.
Jayasumana, C., Gunatilake, S., & Siribaddana, S. (2015). Simultaneous exposure to multiple heavy metals and glyphosate may contribute to Sri Lankan agricultural nephropathy. BMC nephrology, 16(1), 103.
Sri Lankan Agricultural Nephropathy (SAN), a new form of chronic kidney disease among paddy farmers was first reported in 1994. It has now become the most debilitating public health issue in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Previous studies showed SAN is a tubulo-interstitial type nephropathy and exposure to arsenic and cadmium may play a role in pathogenesis of the disease.
Urine samples of patients with SAN (N = 10) from Padavi-Sripura, a disease endemic area, and from two sets of controls, one from healthy participants (N = 10) from the same endemic area and the other from a non-endemic area (N = 10; Colombo district) were analyzed for 19 heavy metals and for the presence of the pesticide- glyphosate.
In both cases and the controls who live in the endemic region, median concentrations of urinary Sb, As, Cd, Co, Pb, Mn, Ni, Ti and V exceed the reference range. With the exception of Mo in patients and Al, Cu, Mo, Se, Ti and Zn in endemic controls, creatinine adjusted values of urinary heavy metals and glyphosate were significantly higher when compared to non-endemic controls. Creatinine unadjusted values were significant higher for 14 of the 20 chemicals studied in endemic controls and 7 in patients, compared to non-endemic controls. The highest urinary glyphosate concentration was recorded in SAN patients (range 61.0-195.1 μg/g creatinine).
People in disease endemic area [are] exposed to multiple heavy metals and glyphosate. Results are supportive of toxicological origin of SAN that is confined to specific geographical areas. Although we could not localize a single nephrotoxin as the culprit for SAN, multiple heavy metals and glyphosates may play a role in the pathogenesis. Heavy metals excessively present in the urine samples of patients with SAN are capable of causing damage to kidneys. Synergistic effects of multiple heavy metals and agrochemicals may be nephrotoxic.