Working conditions that prevent people from drinking enough water can lead to severe kidney problems. Researchers now call attention to this issue, which has been detected in a variety of professions worldwide.
By Fabiana Nerbass
In practice, staying well-hydrated means drinking enough water during the day and emptying the bladder whenever needed. Although this might not be a problem for people who spend most of their time at home, it can be difficult for many whose occupations discourage addressing these simple physiological needs.
People working in hot temperatures lose a lot of water through sweating and frequently suffer from kidney stones as a result. This problem appears in professions such as lifeguards, glass plant and steel industry employees, as well as outdoor workers. Others, like drivers, nurses, and teachers, drink less water in order to avoid going to the toilet and often experience urinary symptoms and infections.
More seriously, a chronic kidney disease epidemic is affecting younger male agricultural workers in the tropical climate regions of Central America and Asia. Many researchers believe that this serious public health problem is strongly associated with recurrent dehydration caused by heavy workload and insufficient water intake.
According to Dr. Fabiana Nerbass, a researcher at the Pró-Rim foundation in Brazil and first author of a recent review paper on the topic, the evidence raises questions that should be asked in every work environment:
- Is access to toilets restricted most of the time?
- Is access to potable water or time to drink the desired amount of water restricted most of the time?
- Is the work performed in a hot environment?
“If the answer to any of these questions is affirmative, workers might be chronically exposed to conditions which make appropriate hydration difficult, and thus probably more susceptible to kidney problems,” says Dr. Nerbass.
Based on the available evidence and the lack of a downside, Dr. Nerbass believes that “employers should promote a hydration-friendly environment for their workers and self-employed people need to care about their own hydration habits. This might benefit cognitive performance, health, and quality of life, while decreasing costs and improving productivity.”
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