Why do `Vanniye-Attho’ and NCP Farmers get CKDu while their cows don’t?
Posted on November 16th, 2017

Chandre Dharmawardana,  Canada.

Regarding Kidney disease among the Vanniye-Aththo.

Unfortunately, this author (Dr Amarasiri De Silva, an anthopologist)  has not checked his facts and instead simply followed what a young Swedish Research student who had come to write a social studies  thesis on Anthopology has said, ignoring the excellent work done by local scientists and medics.

Even for the correct word form for “sinhalese”, this author relies on the Swedish student, as to whether we should write it as “Singhalese”, or “Sinhalese”. English is not a phonetic languages. Even the Sidath Sangara (mdieval sinhalese grammar and literary style book) says that common usage dictates the “right usage”.

Same for  the usage  “Vanniyala-Aththo” where he  follows the swede.

The attached note (included also as text below) may help in clarifying the issues).

Why do `Vanniye-Attho’ and NCP Farmers get CKDu while their cows don’t?

Dr. Amarasiri de Silva (AS), a retired anthropologist, has made a provocative contribution (Island, 15-11-2017) on chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu)  that goes counter to  main-stream scientific discourse (e.g., by Dr. Tilak Abesekera, Daily News, 9-3-2017), while strongly echoing the  beliefs immensely popular with a section of the wider public.  A young Swedish student named Wiveca Stegeborn (WS)  who prepared a social-anthropology thesis on the  Vanniye-Attho, i.e,  Veddahs”,  is his main source of information.  We are told that the Vanni-Attho contracted CKDu when they joined the Mahaweli settlements, adopted  urban foods,  and became farmers using toxic agrochemicals”.

If AS and WS also imply that DDT and GMO seeds are being used, then we have some truly astounding claims in the article.  AS pushes to extremes the seemingly  credible public view of agrochemicals creating a  toxic environment and causing chronic diseases. Accordingly,  (i) the use of agrochemicals since the 1970s has poisoned the soil, the water and the diet;  (ii) the NCP gets a `double whammy’ because  the  agrochemical runoff from the tea estates gets  to the NCP via the Mahaweli irrigation system. The NCP farmers get chronic kidney disease (CKDu) in due course.

The present author held similar views prior to 2012.  They had to be  drastically modified  during 2012 to 2014 when important field studies appeared. The first was the NSF-funded  WHO  study which medically bench-marked CKDu, and also showed that  toxins in the soil, water and the diet were well below the maximum allowed limits (MALS) for toxicity and hence safe. There was no arsenic or glyphosate, as claimed by the Natha Deviyo” devotees linked to Dr. Jayasumana.

Dr. Sarath Amarasiri, a retired Director General of agriculture points out that when farmers tilled the land, vast flocks of egrets (Kokku”) follow the ploughs to eat the exposed  earthworms and other bugs. If the soil had become toxic, it will not be teeming with organisms, and if they are toxic, the egrets should  also get sick. Clearly, the NCP soil and water are not awash with toxins”.

The present writer used to ask, if the people in some NCP villages get sick, why not the cows? If it is a presence of cadmium in the rice, the cows get even more of it from the straw and the grass which also accumulate cadmium.  Today many scientists think that they understand these puzzles, and why some Rajarata villagers get CKDu while their cows don’t, while other villagers and their  cows also don’t get CKDu!

Studies  of the blood and urine of the patients showed that 97% of them had no significant traces of glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide. A mild warning was raised in the WHO-NSF report about possibly elevated levels of cadmium in the diet, but this was also true of the  diet used in the rest of the country that does not have CKDu. The traces of cadmium found in the rice are  amply counteracted by the presence of other substances like zinc and selenium (just as is the case with cadmium-containing shell fish sold in Europe).

The lack of toxic agents in the soil and water were confirmed by independent research including a Japanese-Sri Lankan study led  by Dr Nanayakkara.   A  National Water Board (NWB) study by Dr. Pathmakumara Jayasinghe showed that the canals, rivers and reservoirs in the NCP had clean water, and that expensive Reverse-Osmosis (RO)  machines are cleaning” water which is already clean! The poor farmers, frightened by the threat of CKDU and toxins buy bottled RO water at Rs 2-3 per litre while Colombo gets water for pennies.

Dr AS has ignored the good work of the local medics and scientists. The NSF-WHO study, the Japanese study, the NWB study etc. , have been summarized  in popular articles by Dr. Waidyanatha, Dr.  Tilak Abesekera and others.  The young Swedish student prepared her thesis on the Vanniye-Aettho, but not on the chemistry of the local environment.

Social anthopologists like AS and WS should study the two adjacent villages named Badulupura and Saaragama, both in Girandurukotte, with common life styles, food, and kinship. And yet Badulupura has CKDu, while Saaragama is healthy.  The Badulupura residents who use their private well water get CKDu, while neighbouring Saarapura , being closer to the agricultural land,  gets its water from irrigation canals or private wells connected  to the groundwater of the paddy fields. Research groups like CERTKID of the Kandy Hospital and the University find that  the consumption of water in isolated shallow household wells  may be causing CKDu.

Peradeniya Chemists like Prof. Illeperuma,  and Geologists like Professors Dissanayake, Chandrjith and others had noted that the endemic areas have hard water and a geology rich in fluoride.  The present author  and several colleagues argued (in a research paper) that Panabokke’s redox mechanism worked in the stagnant wells to progressively leach out fluorides and other mineral salts (known as Hofmeister-active salts) into the  well water.

Hard water has dissolved magensium and calcium. If hard water containing fluorides were the cause of CKDu, one can immediately explain why the people in Badulupura got CKDu, and why those in Saaragama are healthy. We also understand why the cows don’t get CKDu. The cows do not drink water from wells, but drink surface water in canals and fields connected to the agricultural system.  AS and SW claim agricultural water to be contaminated, where as it is not.

A milestone  in CKDu research was the work of Dr. Wasana, Dr. Bandarage et al. of the IFS, Kandy. They fed HARD water containing fluoride to laboratory rats, and established a dose dependent causal relationship between damaged kidneys in the rats, the fluoride, and hard water. If the water was free of fluoride, or if the water was soft, no kidney damage!  Both hardness and fluoride were simultaneously necessary. The present write provided evidence that the magnesium in hard water joined itself to the fluoride forming a pair. Magenisum is not toxic; but it synergistically augments the toxicity of fluoride. Independent  experiments by Dr. Tammityagoda et al. (veterinary science) used water from endemic village wells and showed that mice fed on such water contracted CKDu, while mice given normal water remained healthy. These experiments, the geology of the endemic villages and the chemistry of the well water  led most scientists  to  conclude that CKDu in the NCP  is caused by consuming hard water  containing fluoride. Professor Gamini Rajapaksa’s Moneragala studies confirmed these conclusions.  Provision of cheap clean water by harvesting rain water has been launched.

Scientists have shown that farmers are using agrochemicals in excess, especially with the free market in 1977 cutting out the agriculture department’s control on agrochemicals.  Such excessive use leads to algae blooms and environmental problems. The agriculture department has issued 25 booklets for the 25 districts, indicating where fertilizers are NOT needed, or how much is needed.  Agrochemicals are used thorough out the country, and especially in the hill plantations. But no CKDu and other diseases attributed to agrochemicals have been detected. We now understand why some villagers get CKDu while their cows stay healthy, or why other villagers escape the  illness. Fluoride and hard water are not found together in the hill country, or in Jaffna where there is heavy agrochemical usage, and so there is no CKDu in those areas.

Finally, let us look at the Swedish student’s views on the rural food culture, since they apply equally well to most of the country without CKDu.

(quote)… with time diabetes started to spread. It came with junk food, and with Cokes, Seven-Ups and Fantas … welfare coupons for sugar and white flour… The tea was no longer taken with honey or hackuru [Kithul jaggery], it was with refined sugar. …This is a common ailment among indigenous people introduced to a ‘western’ excessive food culture (end quote).

Honey and jaggery are nearly as bad as refined sugar. Sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose, while honey (i.e., bee’s vomit) contains 40% fructose, 30% glucose while the remaining 30% is water, pollen and bio-matter from the bee. Honey has  some 31% more calories than sugar. The pollen can cause botulism especially in children younger than 12. Honey has similar effects as sugar on blood glucose levels, causing problem for diabetics, whether they are Vanniye-Attheo or not. The digestive tract absorbs fructose poorly, and the fructose end up in the liver, leading to metabolic problems including type-II diabetes. The American Diabetes Association regards  palm sugars (e.g, Jaggery) to be no better than pure sugar.

The embrace of western food culture”, or the equally unhealthy Kalu dodol, Kaevum, athiraha, kiri-paeni, ala dosi” or baedum, ghee rice” etc by the Vanni-Aetto or anybody else reflects the lack of nutritional education in Sri Lanka. There were no courses on food science, environmental science etc., in any Sri Lankan university until the mid 1970s.  The present writer, as a Professor of Chemistry and as a  Vice Chancellor of the Vidyodaya (SJP) University  worked to introduce them to the university curriculum.   Course units in nutrition, health and environmental science  are badly needed even in our schools.

6 Responses to “Why do `Vanniye-Attho’ and NCP Farmers get CKDu while their cows don’t?”

  1. Senerath Says:

    Digestive system of cows is not the same as humans ( we don’t eat grass, specially dried grass). Cows have a shorther life span. If humans get the decease after 10 years of exposure, by the time cow gets it, it is dead.

  2. aloy Says:

    Here is an expert who doesn’t understand the difference of life span between a cow and a human. There is a saying a that ‘kanna ona unama kabaragoyath thalagoya’. These are serious matters affecting lives of our farmers. They have been doing the farming for thousands of years without any problem. Suddenly CKDu appears. I believe some people want to eliminate Sinhalas from Rajarata.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    A very poor comparison on more than two counts.

    Presence of worms in soil is no indication of lack of toxicity. Cows with a very short lifespan and a very large body mass cannot be compared to humans.

  4. Senerath Says:

    I serously think LTTE and their supportes have poisoned waterways and Wevas of certain areas and are still doing it secretly. This cannot be ruled out.

  5. Senevirath Says:

    අහෝ,, පනුවෝ සහ හරක් ද නරයන්ට සමානලු බොහෝ දෙනෙක් ලියු හෙයින් මේ ගැන වැඩිදුර නොලියමි

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Conclusion :
    In Lanka, ‘tis better to be Cow rather than a human being ?

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