Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of experiencing a decline in kidney function and developing kidney disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
The study found that the effects of particulate matter exposure on the kidneys are seen starting at fairly “low” levels, and rise linearly with exposure to rising levels of particulate air pollution.
So, the relationship between particulate air pollution and kidney disease is not ambiguous, to say the least.
The press release provides more: “To investigate, a team led by Ziyad Al-Aly, MD (Director of Clinical Epidemiology at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System) linked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs databases to examine information on 2,482,737 US veterans who were followed for a median of 8.5 years. Air pollution levels were also assessed using space-borne sensors from NASA satellites.
“The researchers found a linear relationship between air pollution levels and risk of experiencing kidney function decline and of developing kidney disease or kidney failure. The results suggest that each year in the United States, 44,793 new cases of CKD and 2438 new cases of kidney failure are attributed to particulate matter air pollution exceeding the EPA’s recommended limit of 12 μg/m3.”
It’s noteworthy here, though, that even particulate air pollution levels below the EPA’s recommended limits are apparently damaging to the kidneys. This is the case with the relationship between air pollution and many other diseases as well, so this isn’t too surprising.
Lead researcher Dr Al-Aly noted: “This suggests that there is no safe level of air pollution.”
This work builds on much earlier research establishing links between air pollution exposure and health problems ranging from heart disease to dementia to asthma.