Occupational health organization La Isla Network and Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell have signed a joint statement calling upon rum producers to urgently address the epidemic of heat-related kidney disease throughout their sugarcane supply chains.
For decades, workers in sugarcane communities have been suffering, too often in silence, from an epidemic of heat-related kidney disease (CKDnT), fuelled by heavy strenuous labor, a lack of rest, shade, and hydration, and rising global temperatures. The situation is so dire that in one sugarcane community, La Isla in Nicaragua, 100 of its 350 households are headed by widows, as the husbands have all succumbed to CKDnT.
In the past decade, over 20,000 workers have died of this disease in Mesoamerica alone. “With so many parents sick or departed child labor becomes a reality in rum supply chains”, says Jason Glaser, CEO of La Isla Network. “Kids as young as 11 enter the fields so that their families can survive, and by the time they are in their 20s they often fall ill after years of exposure.”
La Isla Network’s research and on-the-ground work has shown that this crisis is addressable, and yet the reality is that this disease persists within the labor supply chains of many leading rum brands.
In 2015, La Isla Network co-founded the Adelante Initiative, chartering the path to eliminate this disease and other heat-related illnesses in the sugar industry and beyond. They now call upon all actors of the rum industry to ensure that these effective and evaluated worker protections exist throughout their supply chains.
“The death of workers from a preventable disease within a multi-billion dollar industry is not only tragic; it is morally unacceptable. In a warming world, there is no time to waste when it comes to protecting workers from the fatal effects of heat. It is time to make great rum work for everyone.”
La Isla Network is an international research organization and occupational health consultancy dedicated to protecting workers from the fatal effects of heat in a warming world. They generate, support, and execute evidence-driven solutions to end the epidemic of heat-related kidney disease among workers and their communities worldwide. In the process, LIN improves working conditions and supports the creation and enforcement of policies required to protect those affected laislanetwork.org
Ian Burrell is an award-winning “EduTainer”, and the world’s only Global Ambassador for rum. He has conducted masterclasses and seminars, sipped cocktails and judged competitions on no less than 7 continents around the world. In 2020, he was voted 10th most influential person in the Drinks International Bar World Top 100, was voted the World’s Best International Brand Ambassador at The 2018 Spirited Awards, Tales of the Cocktail, and is the founder of the World’s first and longest running Rum Festival The UK RumFest 15th -17th October 2021 www.rumfest.co.uk.