Polluted air can fuel chronic kidney diseases (CKD), which occurs when a person’s kidneys become damaged or can’t filter blood properly, according to a new research.
A University of Michigan study, recently published in PLOS ONE, highlighted the lesser-known connection, reports the Science Daily.
Air pollution contains fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is a cocktail of microscopic particles.
Because these particles are virtually weightless, they can stay in the air longer, causing humans to unavoidably inhale them on a regular basis without knowing it. PM2.5 can lead to serious health effects when inhaled often.
Apart from PM2.5, air pollution also contains heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium — all of which are known to negatively affect the kidneys.
"Similar to smoking, air pollution contains harmful toxins that can directly affect the kidneys," says Jennifer Bragg-Gresham, a Michigan Medicine epidemiologist and the study's lead author.
"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."
People with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk of developing CKD. Which is why high-risk patients who live in heavily populated or polluted areas should recognize the danger and take precautions, Bragg-Gresham says.
Previous studies have shown that polluted air increases the risk of respiratory problems such as asthma, organ inflammation, worsening of diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.
The new study examined several prior studies on the issue.
Looking at areas that are heavily polluted versus areas that are less polluted, you will find more chronic kidney diseases in the heavily polluted areas, said co-author Rajiv Saran, nephrologist at University of Michigan.
"In heavily polluted areas, consider wearing masks that cover your nose and mouth, limit hours outside and limit long hours commuting to work in high traffic as well," cautioned Saran, adding that the risk should be taken seriously.