Delhi-NCR air pollution: How it's damaging your kidneys, know from expert

By, New Delhi
Nov 04, 2022 10:53 AM IST

Long term exposure to toxic pollutants can worsen your kidney function and cause chronic kidney diseases. Here's all you want to know about impact of air pollution on your kidneys.

It's that time of the air when cities in North India resemble a gas chamber as air quality deteriorates and citizens battle with multiple health hazards of pollution. The toxic smog with worrying levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and other particulate matter impacts every organ of the body, not just lungs. While some of the side-effects of air pollution are apparent others are invisible and over the time silently raise our risk of deadly diseases. (Also read: Why kidney issues are common in October; expert offers tips for healthy kidneys)

Long term exposure to air pollution can significantly damage kidney function in people.(Twitter/AshfordIns)
Long term exposure to air pollution can significantly damage kidney function in people.(Twitter/AshfordIns)

Long term exposure to air pollution can significantly damage kidney function of people. This means that people staying near polluted areas are more at risk of developing kidney disease than others. Up to 22% of the global burden of disease and 23% of deaths are attributable to environmental pollution.


"The kidney is particularly vulnerable to toxic effects from environmental pollutants owing to its filtration functions; environmental and occupational exposures to pollutants remain common causes of kidney disease worldwide, especially in developing countries. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to particulate matter <2.5 μm in mean aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) is associated with increased risk of membranous nephropathy and more rapid decline in renal function," says Dr Sanjeev Gulati, President Elect, India Society of Nephrology, Principal Director, Nephrology and Kidney Transplant, Fortis Escorts, Okhla road, New Delhi.

Membranous nephropathy occurs when the small blood vessels in the kidney that filter waste from the blood is damaged and thickened. Due to this, proteins leak from the damaged blood vessels into the urine.


A study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology points to air pollution increasing risk of new cases of kidney disease, and quicker progression of CKD to dialysis.

"A study published in a leading Kidney Journal (Journal of American Society of Nephrology) evaluated 2.5 million veterans who did not have kidney disease when they were screened in 2003 and 2004. The study estimated that pollution, could have caused about 45,000 new cases of CKD and 2438 patients starting dialysis during the time of the study," says Dr Gulati.


Studies in Taiwanese and Korean adults have also observed associations between higher PM air pollution levels and reduced renal function, and an increased risk of developing CKD.

"In a study done in Europe short-term exposure to elevated air pollution levels was associated with a decrease in eGFR. The main pollutants affecting the kidneys were PMs and SO2. In medium-term an increase in annual concentration of PM2.5 and NO2 resulted in an increased number of patients with chronic kidney disease," says Dr Gulati.

"The incidence of CKD is increasing in our country. Data from the registry of Indian Society of Nephrology shows that a large number (16%) of patients have CKD due to unknown causes and is possible that air pollution could be contributing to unexplained CKD," concludes Dr Gulati.

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