Air pollution can cause kidney disease, new study says

Kidney disease is the latest ailment linked to air pollution, a new study has found.

The report from the American Society of Nephrology found that air pollution – even in small amounts – can damage your kidneys. Previous research has also linked it to heart disease, strokes, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

When people inhale tiny specks of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquids in polluted air, these particles are swept into their bloodstream. And since kidneys filter the blood, the particles can damage them, the new analysis explained.

The reports researchers are warning that any amount of air pollution, no matter how small, can harm the kidneys the same way it harms other organs such as the heart and lungs.

A new report from the American Society of Nephrology has found that air pollution can result in kidney disease and failure. Those who live in geographic areas with high levels of pollution are more at risk for the disease, the report concluded (file photo)


Our kidneys filter out waste products from the blood before converting them into urine. They also help maintain blood pressure.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition where the kidneys do not work as well as normal.

The risk of CKD increases as you age. It is also more common among Asian and black people.

CKD does not usually cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. It can be detected early on via blood and urine tests.

The main symptoms of advanced kidney disease include tiredness, swollen ankles or hands, shortness of breath, nausea and blood in urine.

Those with the condition have a greater risk of having a stroke or heart attack. It can also cause kidney failure, when sufferers will need to have dialysis and possible transplant.

However, lifestyle changes and medication can stop it getting worse if it’s diagnosed at an early stage. 

The report’s researchers tracked two-and-a-half million US veterans for eight-and-a-half years for the study, which began in 2004.

During the course of the experiment, scientists looked at the veterans’ kidney function and the air quality levels in the places they were living.

They measured the air quality levels by looking at data from the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA.

And the researchers found that air pollution causes 44,793 new cases of kidney disease and 2,438 cases of kidney failure annually.

They concluded that the air pollution levels in certain geographic areas of the US are particularly bad and that people living in them have an elevated risk of kidney disease.

Namely, people in Southern California, the South, the Midwest and the Northeast have higher chances because of the environments they live in.

Study researcher Dr Ziyad Al-Aly said the new report was one of the first of its kind.

He said: ‘Data on the relationship between air pollution and kidney disease in humans has been scarce. However, once we analyzed the data, the link between air pollution and the development of kidney disease was clear.’

Dr Al-Aly emphasized that, while people who live in areas with air pollution problems are more at risk, any amount of air pollution can damage the kidneys.

‘The higher the levels of air pollution, the worse it is for the kidneys. However, no level is completely safe,’ he explained.

‘Even at relatively low levels, there was a relationship between particulate matter concentrations below the EPA thresholds and kidney disease.’