Air pollution could be a factor in the high levels of chronic kidney disease in the municipality of Poncitlán, Jalisco, according to a doctor who is researching the causes of the illness.
The presence of elevated levels of heavy metals and pesticides have already been determined as probable causes of the disease that has afflicted at least 163 people out of a total population of 950 in the small town of Agua Caliente, located on the shore of Lake Chapala.
Doctor Felipe Lozano Kasten, who heads the multidisciplinary team from the University of Guadalajara that has been studying the causes of the outbreak, explained yesterday that contaminated air is not just a danger to people’s lungs.
“Fine particles can damage the kidneys the same way they damage other organs,” Lozano said during an environmental health session at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara.
Many of the kidney damage victims are children aged between five and nine, although adults in the municipality are also developing the disease at rates well above those of other areas of the state.
Lozano, whose research has focused mainly on the affected children, has already considered a range of possible causes including water, diet, exposure to pesticides and housing. Both pesticides and heavy metals have been found in urine samples of people suffering from the disease.
But now Lozano has concluded that air pollution could also be linked to the high incidence of renal damage in the municipality, citing an American Society of Nephrology report that estimates that over 40,000 cases of kidney damage are related to contaminated air.
“We asked ourselves, what’s happening with the environment?” Lozano said.
Subsequently, he found that 94% of homes in the community cook with firewood, using 2,574 kilograms of wood each day that produces residues that residents later inhale.
“Practically every day” people in Agua Caliente are exposed to air that exceeds World Health Organization guidelines, he said, adding that Mexican norms are less stringent and consequently alerts have not been activated on some days.
Children are particularly susceptible to environmental risks, Lozano said, “because a child breathes more frequently than an adult, drinks more water than an adult, crawls [and] is in greater contact with the ground” while their bodies are still developing.
The high prevalence of poverty was another factor, according to the researcher, and he cited malnutrition and cases of children spraying pesticides as posing further health risks to the community.
Source: Milenio (sp)