Adding to the list of health issues associated with PM2.5 pollution, new open-access research published in PLOS ONE suggests that PM2.5 is connected with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which occurs when a person’s kidneys become damaged or cannot filter blood properly.
Similar to smoking, air pollution contains harmful toxins that can directly affect the kidneys. Kidneys have a large volume of blood flowing through them, and if anything harms the circulatory system, the kidneys will be the first to sense those effects.—Jennifer Bragg-Gresham, M.S., Ph.D., a Michigan Medicine epidemiologist and lead author
People with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk of developing CKD. High-risk patients who live in heavily populated or polluted areas should recognize the danger and take precautions, Bragg-Gresham says.
By reviewing Medicare claims data and air-quality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study’s authors found a positive association between CKD rates and PM2.5 concentration.
If you look at areas that are heavily polluted versus areas that are less polluted, you will find more chronic kidney disease.—co-author Rajiv Saran, M.D., a Michigan Medicine nephrologist and director of the United States Renal Data System Coordinating Center at U-M
According to figures cited in the new research, chronic kidney disease afflicts more than 27 million Americans. People with CKD have an eightfold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
The U-M research examined several prior studies on the issue, including an effort conducted in select coal-mining areas of Appalachia that found a 19% higher risk of CKD among men and a 13% higher risk in women compared with those who lived in counties with no mining.
PM2.5 levels are much lower in the US than in other industrialized countries such as China and India.
What this means for the countries with higher PM2.5 is significantly higher odds of CKD. Our research was only able to examine a small range of PM2.5 values present in America but was able to find a significant association.—Jennifer Bragg-Gresham
Bragg-Gresham J, Morgenstern H, McClellan W, Saydah S, Pavkov M, Williams D, et al. (2018) “County-level air quality and the prevalence of diagnosed chronic kidney disease in the US Medicare population.” PLoS ONE 13(7): e0200612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200612