Sri Lanka Killer Kidney Disease…

A herbicide developed by US-based Monsanto and contaminated fertilizer may be behind an epidemic of mystery kidney disease in Sri Lanka and South America where rice and sugarcane is grown, a research study has suggested.

Glyphosate-metal complex
N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine or Aminophosphonate a widely used herbicide better known as glyphosate, could be helping carry heavy metals toxic to kidneys, occurring naturally and in agro-chemicals such as phosphate fertilizer, the researchers said.

Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) first appeared in Sri Lanka’s rice growing areas in the north central province in the 1990s and has been spreading into other areas including the South, with over 20,000 estimated deaths so far.

Glyphosate was originally used as a de-scaling agent to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in hot water systems, the study said. De-scaling agents tie themselves to on metals like Calcium and Magnesium and makes them water soluble.

It was later sold as a herbicide by US-based Monsanto under the brand name ‘Round up’ and was under patent until 2000.

The mystery kidney disease is mostly found in areas with ‘hard’ ground water (water containing Calcium, Magnesium, Strontium and Iron and other chemicals) except in Sri Lanka’s northern province where the ground water is also hard.

But in the Northern Province agro-chemical use was banned until the end of a civil war to prevent them being used to make bombs until a few years ago and there was no CKDu epidemic there yet, providing evidence to a recent agro-chemical link, the paper said.

Arsenic
Other researchers have earlier found Arsenic in hair and nails of victims and even healthy individuals in the affected areas.

Triple-super-phosphate (TSP) fertilizer used in farming was also found to contain heavy metals and Arsenic.

“Recent findings have shown that the TSP available in Sri Lanka is contaminated with significant amounts of Cd (Cadmium), Cr (Cromium), Ni (Nickel) and Pb (lead).

“Furthermore, it was also found that TSP used in Sri Lanka is a very rich source of arsenic.” The paper cited anecdotal reports of shallow wells that have becoming increasingly contaminated and being abandoned by farmers.

The disease was also not found in people drinking from natural springs which had no hard water and pipe-borne water.

Unprotected
The chemical could also be ingested into the body through other ways. The researchers said farmers in Sri Lanka do not use protective gear and glyphosate is also dissolved in hard water before spraying. They have detected Glyphosate in their urine after spraying.

The compound can be breathed in and get into the body through the skin after dissolving in sweat, the paper said.

Other research had found Cadmium and Arsenic in rice and tobacco grown in Sri Lanka. Farmers also ate rice as a staple and also chewed tobacco.

Misled?
A similar epidemic has been found in Andra Pradesh in India where the ground water was also hard. But hard water is not usually associated with kidney toxicity. In Sri Lanka also through hard water has been found it has not received much attention earlier.

The researchers said glyphosate being advertised as a magic week killer which was environmentally friendly and degraded quickly may have led to it being ignored.

South America
A similar kidney disease has also been found among farmers in Central America’s pacific coastline including El Salavador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

“The disease is common in sugarcane cultivating areas in CA (Central America) where some of them previously used to grow cotton,” the paper said.

“Both sugarcane and rice belong to the grass family and need a comparatively higher amount of agrochemicals in large-scale cultivation.

Excessive Chemicals
Other reports have suggested that agro-chemical use in Sri Lanka is the highest in the world.

Others were; Bangladesh (431U), Jamaica (397U), Dominican Republic (358U), Costa Rica (357U) and El Salvador (355U).