Researchers say that outdoor air pollution may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease and contribute to kidney failure.

Air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Now a new study now has added kidney disease to the list.

Over two million people studied

The Washington University team, in collaboration with scientists at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Center, used national VA databases to evaluate the effects of air pollution and kidney disease on nearly 2,5 million people over a period of eight and half years, beginning in 2004.

The scientists compared VA data on kidney function to air-quality levels collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The EPA derived its data from land-based air-monitoring stations across the U.S.

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The findings suggest that 44 793 new cases of kidney disease and 2 438 new cases of kidney failure may be attributed to levels of air pollution that exceed the EPA’s threshold of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. This is the highest level of air pollution considered safe for the public.

How does air pollution affect the kidneys?

Fine particles can damage the kidneys in the same way they damage other organs such as the heart and lungs.

Airborne and invisible, microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquid droplets often become destructive when they invade the bloodstream. The kidneys filter the blood, and these harmful particles can disrupt normal kidney function.

The study found that even low levels of particulate matter may adversely affect the kidneys. And those adverse effects increase as pollution levels increase.

“The higher the levels of air pollution, the worse it is for the kidneys,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University, “However, no level is completely safe. Even at relatively low levels, there was a relationship between particulate matter concentrations below the EPA thresholds and kidney disease.”

Source: Washington University in St. Louisen via

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