The San Antonio Sugar Mill located in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, is the largest in Central America, producing sugar that is used by companies like Coca-Cola and rum factories. An increasing number of people have died or are currently suffering from chronic kidney disease. There is a strong association with pesticide use in the area and CKD. Currently, due to inconclusive research, there has not been a link to the disease and pesticide use. There is distrust in the research and environmental impact surveys done in Nicaragua since the funding for the research comes from the sugar industry.

There is a group of former workers who have made their homes on the side of the road in Managua, the capital. They chose this spot so that people could see their suffering from the disease and to promote awareness. They are living in houses made of cardboard boxes and plastic tarps. They made it on the news once. Lawsuits filed by workers in 2000 have gone nowhere. The government is turning a blind eye to the issue.

More people need to know about this environmental justice issue. Continued research needs to be done, because 20,000 men have died prematurely from CKD. Kidney failure is five times more than the national rate in agricultural areas in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. If these victims and their families can’t look to the government for help, they are going to need assistance from elsewhere.

Research could find the source of this disease so we can better understand it and prevent future deaths. The suffering of these people and the contamination cannot be ignored any longer. If enough people raise awareness, the government cannot ignore the problem and will have no choice but to take action. The people in Nicaragua need answers and support.

Kelsey Brickell,

Missoula

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