Factors related to decreased kidney function in migrant farm workers revealed
NIEHS-funded researchers reported lower kidney function in farm workers, particularly among those working in fields with conventional farming practices. The researchers examined factors that may play a role in chronic kidney disease of unknown origin, a condition linked to diverse and complex environmental influences.
Researchers enrolled more than 100 migrant and seasonal farm workers in Northern Mexico and randomly assigned them to work in certified organic or conventional farming areas. These field categories were used as a proxy for pesticide exposure. The scientists also enrolled 50 office workers within the same region to serve as a reference group. In addition to documenting demographic, behavioral, and occupational characteristics, they collected urine and blood samples prior to and late in the harvesting season. The team measured body temperature and heart rate before and during work shifts and evaluated heat strain and dehydration in relation to kidney function.
Pre-harvest, all participants had normal kidney function. By late harvest, the team found significantly lower kidney function among farm workers while no changes were detected in office workers. In particular, the authors reported that dehydration and heat strain were associated with worse kidney function. Farm workers in conventional fields had lower kidney function compared to those working in organic fields.
According to the team, these findings reveal that pesticide exposure should be considered in combination with heat strain and dehydration in the development of kidney disease, and that early and frequent monitoring for kidney health among those in high-risks jobs is critical.
Citation: Lopez-Galvez N, Wagoner R, Canales RA, Ernst K, Burgess JL, de Zapien J, Rosales C, Beamer P. 2021. Longitudinal assessment of kidney function in migrant farm workers. Environ Res. 202:111686.