Air pollution may play a role in the development of kidney disease, according to a study presented at the American Society of Nephrology's Kidney Week 2014.

There are wide variances in the prevalence of chronic kidney disease across the United States, only part of which is explained by differences in individuals’ risk factors. To see if air quality may also play a role, Jennifer Bragg-Gresham, PhD, from the University of Michigan, and her colleagues looked at 2010 Medicare information on 1.1 million persons as well as air-quality data for all U.S. counties provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The investigators found a link between the prevalence of CKD and the county level of particulate matter, even after taking into account patient risk factors for CKD including age, diabetes, and hypertension. An elevated prevalence of CKD was observed when particulate matter levels were as low as 8.4 μg/m3, which is much lower than levels typically considered unhealthy for sensitive groups such as the elderly (~40 μg/m3).

“If air pollution is a risk factor for CKD, the impact is likely to be even greater in countries where pollution levels are much higher than in the U.S. Future investigations should include lab-based diagnosis of CKD, longitudinal data, measures of multiple air pollutants and individual exposure, and more extensive control of confounding factors,” said Bragg-Gresham.

Study: “County-level Air Quality and the Prevalence of Diagnosed Chronic Kidney Disease in the U.S. Medicare Population” (Abstract SA-PO802)