Research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology has linked the surge in kidney disease incidence among young Mesoamericans to a common agricultural pesticide called paraquat.

The continuing global epidemic was discovered in the early 2000s and mostly affects young men and women in agricultural communities along the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America, which include some of the world's poorest populations.

Dr. Rebecca Fischer, assistant professor at the School of Public Health, investigated the role of paraquat in Mesoamerican nephropathy with colleagues from Houston Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and other institutions.

The research says, Mesoamerican nephropathy is a kidney disease with no known cause, and patients do not have the underlying health issues that commonly precede kidney diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, or obesity. They are also not in later phases of life, having been impacted in their twenties and thirties.

The researchers surveyed Central American immigrants with kidney disease who were patients at an outpatient dialysis clinic in Houston, Texas, to study the potential involvement of paraquat in Mesoamerican nephropathy. They compared kidney tissue samples from animal models injected with modest dosages of paraquat to a control group of animal models that had not been exposed to paraquat in Fischer's previous research.#

The study comprised 52 people suffering from Mesoamerican nephropathy and 63 patients with other kinds of kidney failure. The Mesoamerican nephropathy patients were younger, 96% male, and most had worked in agriculture before to leaving for the United States, raising the possibility of long-term paraquat exposure.

The results of the study indicated that “patients with Mesoamerican nephropathy and kidney failure were young agricultural workers, almost exclusively men; the majority were from Mexico and El Salvador; and they had prior exposures to agrochemicals, including paraquat (27%). After adjustment for age/sex, exposure to any agrochemical or paraquat was associated with Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure. Adjusted for age/sex and other covariates, 1 year of agrochemical exposure was associated with Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure.”

It further stated that “compared with 16 matched healthy controls, Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure was significantly associated with exposure to paraquat and agrochemicals. Paraquat-treated male mice developed kidney failure and tubulointerstitial nephritis consistent with Mesoamerican nephropathy. Organic cation transporter-2 expression was higher in male kidneys versus female kidneys. Paraquat treatment increased organic cation transporter-2 expression and decreased multidrug and toxin extrusion 1 expression in male kidneys; similar results were observed in the kidneys of Nicaraguan patients with Mesoamerican nephropathy.”

According to Fischer, the study and additional research can help further clarify the potential dangers of agricultural chemicals like paraquat and highlight the need to protect agriculture workers against agrochemicals in the future.

Fischer's team is doing more environmental investigations in Central America to identify possible exposures and people who develop kidney disease in the most severely affected places.

In some African nations, paraquat may be obtained in agrochemical firms, agro-dealers' shops, open markets, and retail shops, as well as in rural agricultural communities cultivating crops, where it is mostly used to control weeds before and after land preparation.

In Nigeria, paraquat is sold under a variety of brand names, including Gramoxone super, Send-off, Dragon, Paraforce, Dizmazone-20%, weed crusher, and Paraquat liquid.

Bret P-20 liquid, Miazone, Premium paraquat, Ravage, Uniquat, Mxiquat, Paracot, Para one, Paratex, Slasher, Scud, Weedex 200 SI, Baraquat liquid, Chemquat, Glopara liquid, Grass cutter 20%, Philozone, Paracom Eraser LQ, Paragliquid, Reliquat, and Uniquat liquid are some more brand names.

For more than 60 years, farmers have relied on paraquat herbicide to save labor, guard against exotic weeds, and produce agronomically important crops such as soy, maize, and cotton.

It is the third most extensively used herbicide in the world; in most countries where it is registered, it may be used without limitation despite its toxicity.

Since 2009, multiple studies have established a substantial association between long-term paraquat exposure and an increased chance of developing Parkinson's disease: a progressive brain condition that impairs mobility.

According to 2011 research done by the National Institutes of Health at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, farmers and agricultural workers who sprayed paraquat had a 2.5 times greater chance of developing Parkinson's.

Another study found that pesticide applicators are not the only ones at risk of developing brain disorders. For example, according to a study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, those who lived within 550 yards of farms where paraquat was used were 75% more likely to develop Parkinson's disease.

According to an article on, a service that monitors the pharmaceutical sector, informs and warns the public, and provides a road map for legal action, 32 nations have banned the hazardous weed killer as of November 2022. Brazil, Syria, Kuwait, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark, Malaysia, Cambodia, Germany, Ivory Coast, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU), and the United Arab Emirates are among these countries.

“Currently, Paraquat is sprayed on over 50 crops in around 120 countries. But just because some countries banned the use of Paraquat doesn’t mean they stopped exporting in.

The United Kingdom, in particular, was condemned for exporting thousands of tonnes of Paraquat to developing countries. Critics have condemned the practice and called it an “astonishing double standard,” the portal published.

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