Study by Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences researchers links sugarcane ash to chronic kidney ailment

As per the findings, CKD is common among manual agricultural workers in hot regions.

Published: 20th June 2022 08:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th June 2022 08:45 AM   |  A+A-

Sugarcane

For representational purposes (File Photo | NP Jayan, EPS)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Silica, a material released during the burning of sugarcane, plays a role in chronic kidney disease, postulates a study co-authored by researchers at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS). The clinical research, which was initially conducted on rats, supports the hypothesis that exposure to the material found in sugarcane ash could lead to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in humans.

“One of the highest risk groups for CKD are sugarcane workers, specifically sugarcane cutters, who are exposed to a mixture of aerosolized soil and ash while working in the fields,” said the research conducted by NIMS in collaboration with foreign universities. Epidemics of CKD have been identified in various parts of the world, including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil

Nadu and Puducherry in India. CKD means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. Commonly, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a family history of kidney failure are identified as the reasons behind CKD. However, the new study shows that inhaling silica, also known as silicon dioxide, found in burned sugarcane fields, drinking groundwater contaminated with it also damages the kidney. Moreover, the study showed that the damage continues even after exposure is stopped.

As per the findings, CKD is common among manual agricultural workers in hot regions. It was already reported that oral intake of silica can cause kidney lesions. Connecting these two dots, the study was conducted in order to find out whether inhaling silica particles similar to the one found in sugarcane ash can cause CKD. 

During the research, scientists, including Dr Gangadhar Taduri of NIMS, administered 200 to 300 nanometer (nm), i.e. 4 mg per dose, amorphous particles of silica to rats through silica contaminated air and water twice for 13 weeks. The rats were then kept in normal circumstances for more than 13 weeks. It was found that the rats developed tubular injury and inflammation in lungs and kidney in week-13. This further developed into kidney disease in week-26 even though the exposure had been stopped.

“Burned sugarcane cutters in particular have some of the highest rates of CKD. They are especially exposed to silica present in ash. When workers cut the cane, a substantial amount of silica gets in their lungs,” the research concluded. According to the study, silica is also elevated in the urine of people living in villages near the sugarcane fields in Nicaragua in Central America. While a role for heat stress and dehydration plays a vital role, there has been a concern that potential toxins such as silica are also contributing to the rise of CKDs among the workers.



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