Scientists believe nickel is the origin of a form of chronic kidney disease (CKD) hitting the Pacific coastal communities of South America. It has been active between Mexico and Panama and killing more than 20,000 people, It effects the young and it effects those who are not supposed to be at risk for the disease.
Kidneys filter the flood, removing wastes and toxins, allowing them to be expelled
through urine. Chronic kidney disease is a condition where one or both kidneys fail entirely or partially. There is no cure for the condition, except for organ transplant.
Scientists examined data from a Nicaraguan hotspot and one of the worst-hit areas in the continent. Data has already shown that low doses of nickel can cause systemic inflation, anemia and kidney injury.
Initially, agricultural toxins had been considered the source, as was genetic mutations due to the sharp increases of the disease in the area. Researchers collected the toe nail clippings of individuals with the disease for three months, as this is the easiest way to test the presence of trace elements. They analyzed this information against people from the same area who did not have CKD. The results showed CKD patients having significantly higher nickel levels and also found higher levels of aluminum and vanadium in the affected cases.
Nickel is an abundant, naturally occurring heavy element, but the human body only needs a small amount. Excessive exposure to the internal organs can cause toxic and carcinogenic effects. Agricultural field laborers, miners and brick-makers were found to have the highest risk of acquiring this disease, as they are people who work with soil a great deal. Researchers believe the exposure was likely geological in nature and might have been linked to a volcanic chain in the area. This chain became active in the late 90s and these cases of CKD began to show up shortly afterwards.