Air Pollution and Kidney Disease…The Environment’s Impact On Your Health

The unfavorable health effects of air pollution have been recognized since increased mortality rates due to smog were first reported in London in the 1950s. Ever since, ambient air pollution is considered one of the foremost causes of global disease burden. The negative effects of air pollution are challenging to keep up with, especially in developing countries. Air pollution itself is an intricate mixture of solid and liquid particles and gaseous components dispersed in the air.

There is enough evidence that spreads awareness of respiratory problems, organ inflammation and worsening of diabetes caused by air pollution. Certain studies suggest that air pollution can help fuel something else: chronic kidney disease, or CKD. This particular disease occurs when a person’s kidneys become damaged or cannot filter blood properly. The kidney is one of the organs that tends to be more vulnerable to environmental pollutants because most toxins in the air are concentrated by the kidney during filtration. Provided the high mortality and morbidity of kidney disease, environmental risk factors and their harmful effects on kidney disease need to be identified. 


Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

One in 10 people worldwide have chronic kidney disease, according to The Global Kidney Health Atlas. One in 3 people in the overall population worldwide is at increased risk of CKD. According to statistics, chronic kidney disease affects more than 27 million Americans. Kidneys have a large volume of blood flowing through them so if anything bothers the circulatory system, the kidneys will be the first to sense those effects. People with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk of developing CKD. Among high-income countries, Saudi Arabia and Belgium have the highest estimated CKD prevalence (24%), followed by Poland (18%), Germany (17%) and the UK and Singapore(16%). Norway and the Netherlands have the lowest estimates at 5%. The USA’s estimated prevalence is 14%, while Canada and Australia are 13%.

Approximately about 1 million people die each year from untreated kidney failure. But people with CKD are upto 20 times more likely to die of other causes, largely cardiovascular diseases. It is also believed that a diagnosis of CKD does not mean that you will require dialysis or a transplant, but it does indicate that you are at risk for many health problems; heart disease, strokes, and infections. The increase of CKD in some areas of the U.S. remains unexplained for some time. Now we know that air pollution could be a factor. However, it is technically still unknown how pollution actually causes the CKD. In context, tiny pollution particles enter the bloodstream after being inhaled into the lungs. Once in the bloodstream, they could be filtered by the kidney which can cause kidney damage. 


Some Stats on Air Pollution

Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 6.5 deaths annually, or one in nine premature deaths every year. From that big number, around 200,000 die every year in the United States. 

  • Ghaziabad, India is the most air polluted city in the world with 110.2 ug/m3.


  • Hotan, China is the second most air polluted city with 110.1 ug/m3.


  • Gujranwala, Pakistan comes in third with 105.3 ug/m3.


Some disturbing coincidences from the research: among the top 20 air polluted cities in the world, 14 of those places are located in India, 4 in Pakistan and 2 in China. The capital of India; Delhi is vastly polluted and there’s dust just about everywhere. Indian Media confirms that Delhi Air Pollution kills about 2 million people in India every year. India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, according to the WHO.

These three countries together are the most polluted on earth by air. A lot of these developing countries are affected by this due to their mediocre public health management systems. It is proven that if you look at areas that are heavily polluted versus areas that are less polluted, you will find more chronic kidney disease.


Problems and preventive measures

Research conducted in select coal-mining areas of Appalachia found a 19% higher risk of CKD among men and a 13% higher risk in women compared to those who lived in countries with no mining. On the bright side, PM2.5 levels are way lower in the United States than in other industrialized and developing countries such as China and India. What this actually tells us is that countries with higher PM2.5 levels are at significantly higher odds of CKD. There are some preventive measures that can practiced in heavily polluted areas, like wearing face masks, limiting hours outside and limiting long hours commuting to work in high traffic. Many of us overlook how serious this issue is, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important for your health.

For more about how the environment has impacted kidney health, check out these articles:

Sri Lanka Study Says, “Fluoride In Drinking Water Can Damage Weak Kidneys”

Lead Lurks In The Unlikeliest Places…Here’s What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Kidneys