A mysterious kidney disease that has killed over 20,000 people in Central America, most of them sugar cane workers, may be caused by chronic, severe dehydration linked to global climate change, according to a new study by Richard J. Johnson, MD, of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. "This could be the first epidemic directly caused by global warming," said Johnson, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a world-renowned expert on the underlying causes of obesity, kidney disease, diabetes and hypertension.
The study suggests that this epidemic may be gaining momentum now because global warming is increasing the risk of dehydration. "Temperatures have been progressively increasing in El Salvador over the last century, with an average increase of 0.5 degrees Celsius since 1980," the study said. "While the overall increase in temperature may appear small, it has been shown that the small average temperature change associated with global warming are responsible for 75 percent of the moderately daily severe temperature extremes over land. "