Exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the findings of a new study.
In findings published this month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Taiwanese researchers indicate that incremental increases of small particulate matter were linked to a 6% higher risk for kidney disease for each increase in exposure.
The study included data on more than 100,000 Taiwanese residents over the age of 20 without chronic kidney disease, running from 2001 to 2014.
Ambient particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentrations were estimated at each participant’s address using satellite-based spatiotemporal models. PM 2.5 includes very small particles of air pollution such as dust, dirt, soot, and liquid smaller than 2.5 micrometers. In comparison, one strand of human hair is 17 to 181 micrometers. Past studies have linked PM 2.5 air pollution to reduced life expectancy worldwide.
In the new study, a total of 4,046 chronic kidney disease cases were identified. Participants in the fourth and fifth quintile groups of exposure, or those with the highest and second to highest levels of exposure, had significantly increased risk of chronic kidney disease.
For every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air in PM 2.5 concentration levels, participants risk of developing chronic kidney disease increased by six percent. Long-term exposure was also associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease development.
“Although the estimated increase in risk was small at the individual level, the relevant public significance could be tremendous, given that exposure to air pollution is ubiquitous,” the researchers concluded. “CKD not only contributes to total mortality, but also seriously affects the patients’ quality of life.”
Researchers are unsure what the exact link is between air pollution and chronic kidney disease, but many cardiovascular risks, like smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes, are also risk factors for kidney disease.
This is one of many in slew of recent studies linking air pollution to serious health effects. Recent research has indicated air pollution exposure accelerates aging in children; increases the risk of developing respiratory diseases, including pneumonia; increases risk of developing diabetes; and increases the risk of suffering certain types of strokes. Air pollution increases, even below U.S. national standards, are also linked to increased risk of death.
Air pollution causes more than 7 million deaths each year and is on track to kill many more people unless drastic measures are taken. Researchers involved in this latest study warn there is an urgent need to develop global strategies to reduce air pollution.