Air pollution linked to development of kidney disease

gettyimages 631295486 Air pollution linked to development of kidney disease

HONG KONG – JANUARY 09: The city’s skyline is seen over a haze of pollution on January 9, 2017, in Hong Kong. Heavy air pollution covered Beijing and dozens of cities across China since the beginning of last winter, with levels routinely exceeding World Health Organization guidelines.  (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

Human hair is between 50-70 microns thick. I am a follically-challenged American, in my prime, my locks were probably towards the thicker side of things, but 70 microns still isn’t very wide. To help you get the picture, it takes 25,400 microns – or 363 of my hairs (assuming I have that many remaining) — to make an inch.

A very tiny particulate, only 2.5 microns thick, so small it would take 28 of these to make up one of my hairs, has been found to have a direct association with the development of kidney disease. This particulate called PM 2.5 is found in air pollution and are a result of burning fossil fuels and other organic matter.  Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis and the VA’s St. Louis Health Care System now say the findings suggest that chronic exposure to air pollution raises your chances for developing kidney disease.

The results were published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. “Data on the relationship between air pollution and kidney disease in humans has been scarce,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly. “However, once we analyzed the data, the link between air pollution and the development of kidney disease was clear.”

The data used for this study came from the Department of Veterans Affairs and included information from about 2.5 million veterans. Veterans’ kidney function information was compared to air-quality level statistics that was collected by the EPA and NASA. The results found that almost 45,000 new cases of kidney disease and over 2,000 new cases of kidney failure can be attributed to levels of air pollution, each year.

The VA estimates that one out of every six veterans in the VA’s system has chronic kidney disease. This could be why the VA offers nephrology (kidney care) at 149 VAMC’s.  There are even seven locations in the VA’s system where kidney transplants happen.

The only way to know for sure if you have kidney disease is to see your doctor. Simple lab tests will tell your medical provider just how well your kidneys are working. Even with this, most patients affected by the disease are unaware that they have it in the first place. But the VA does make getting information on the subject very easy with its e-Kidney Clinic.

Visiting the online clinic gives you information on basic kidney functions, nutrition, laboratory, social work services, pharmacy and treatments for the disease. You can also learn about risk factors and ways to take care of your kidneys and even how to live a good life with the disease.

Connect: @JonathanVets1 |

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