It’s official. July was the world’s hottest month on record, scientists from the European climate monitoring agency confirmed on Aug. 8, a full 1.5°C (2.7°F) warmer than pre-industrial averages, offering a potent taste of what is to come in a world made hotter by climate change. Wildfires, heat waves and other natural disasters have engulfed much of the Northern Hemisphere this summer. Expect more of the exact same. What about the increase in heat stroke and heat stress-related deaths? Ditto. Is there an increase in chronic renal disease that is not of traditional origin? Yup. Wait, what?
One of the enduring legacies of this summer’s spate of heat waves is likely to be a disease that few people have heard of, but which could become more prevalent as heat and humidity increase around the world. First documented in El Salvador’s sugarcane workers 21 years ago, Mesoamerican nephropathy, now known as Chronic Kidney Disease of Non-traditional origin (CKDnt), tends to manifest among outdoor laborers who work grueling hours in high heat conditions. CKDnt is characterized by a progressive loss of kidney functions that can be fatal. Since its first diagnosis, it has caused the death of at least 20,000 Central Americans and probably tens more.