Workplace Chemical Hazards & Kidney Damage

How is the kidney affected by chemicals in the workplace?

Your kidneys are vital organs that filter 180 litres of blood every 24 hours. Chemicals and toxins also get filtered through our kidneys. Exposure to chemical substances can cause adverse effects on the kidney, ureter, or bladder (Kidney Toxicity). The kidney is vulnerable because of its role in filtering the blood. Some chemicals and heavy metals cause severe injury to the kidney, while others produce chronic changes that can lead to kidney failure and cancer. 

In the workplace, the most common route of exposure to chemicals for the kidneys are by inhalation (breathing a substance into the lungs), skin absorption, and swallowing. 

Who is At Risk for Kidney Disease?

Some people are at higher risk of kidney disease than others. The two most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. A person with diabetes may have injured blood vessels in the kidneys which results in unfiltered blood. With high blood pressure, the heart is forced to work harder, and work overtime, which also will damage blood cells and the kidneys.  If you suffer from either of these conditions, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the hazards in your workplace, as you are already at high risk for developing kidney disease. 

What workplace chemicals can harm the kidney?

Some examples of occupational products that can contribute to kidney damage and failure are benzene, organic solvents such as fuels, paints, and degreasing agents. Agrochemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides can also cause kidney illness. Exposures to heavy metals such as cadmium and lead are also known to cause toxic injury to the kidneys. 

Reading the Safety Data Sheet for the chemicals you work with and understanding the hazards you are working with is an important step in prevention.

How does dehydration augment kidney damage?

Drinking water when you work outside especially on hot days is important for kidney health. Water removes waste from your blood in the form of urine and helps to open your blood vessels so nutrients can reach your kidneys. When you are dehydrated, your kidneys have to work harder to remove waste and deliver nutrients. Mild dehydration causes fatigue and can impair some normal body functions. Severe dehydration can lead to kidney damage, so it’s important to drink enough when you work outside or exercise very hard, and especially in warm and humid weather. Frequent dehydration may lead to permanent kidney damage.