Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System.
Pollution may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease and, ultimately, contribute to kidney failure, according to the researchers.
The Washington University team, in collaboration with scientists at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Center, culled national VA databases to evaluate the effects of air pollution and kidney disease on nearly 2.5 million people over a period of 8.5 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. 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, which is the highest level of air pollution considered safe for the public, as set by the Clean Air Act of 1990 and updated in 2012.
The study is published Sept. 21 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.