Air pollution may lead to poor kidney health

In a new study, researchers found that people living in areas with higher levels of air pollution faced higher risks of developing kidney disease.

It’s known that breathing in air pollution can have detrimental health effects beyond the lungs, but few studies have shown how it impacts the kidneys, which act as filters for the blood.

As rates of chronic kidney disease rise worldwide, it is important to understand whether and how exposure to air pollution plays a role.

In the study, the team examined information on 10,997 adults across 4 sites in the United States who were followed from 1996-1998 through 2016.

The researchers estimated the monthly average levels of tiny particles of air pollution—called fine particulate matter—based on participants’ home addresses.

Fine particulate matter comes from a variety of sources including fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes, and natural sources.

The team found that exposure to higher amounts of fine particulate matter was linked to a higher degree of albuminuria—a marker of kidney dysfunction—at the start of the study as well as a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease over time.

The team says that their findings may be especially important for parts of the world with higher air pollution, such as China and India, where fine particulate matter levels are 5 to 10 times higher than in the United States.

Future studies should examine whether efforts to improve air quality yield health benefits, including reducing rates of chronic kidney disease.

The lead author of the study is Matthew F. Blum, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine).

The study is published in CJASN.

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