A recent study suggests that exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of first hospital admissions for acute kidney injury (AKI). Even at low concentrations, long-term exposure to air pollutants such as fine particles, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide can contribute to AKI and subsequent hospitalization.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on April 10, 2023, and used a cohort of more than 61 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States and has important implications for updating public health policy.
AKI, characterized by decreased kidney function, is prevalent in the US Medicare population, especially among hospital ICU admissions. AKI is also associated with end-stage renal disease, leading to higher healthcare costs, long-term care burdens, and higher mortality rates.
Air pollution increases AKI risk, even at lower exposure levels
A recent study using a cohort of more than 61 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States found that exposure to air pollutants, specifically NO2, O3, and PM2.5, is associated with first hospitalization for AKI.
AKI is a clinical syndrome characterized by decreased renal function and is common among hospital admissions to the ICU.
In a statement issued to Ground Report, the study findings suggest the need for updated public health policies to reduce exposure to air pollution and mitigate the burden of AKI on health care costs, long-term care, and mortality.
To fill this knowledge gap, a team of scientists, led by Assistant Professor Whanhee Lee of Pusan National University, conducted a population-based study to determine whether increased exposure to air pollution was related to earlier hospital admissions. of patients with AKI in the United States.
The study retrospectively examined more than 61 million Medicare beneficiaries and found a correlation between air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone and fine particulate matter and first hospital admission for AKI. Prof.
Lee noted that the study provides scientific evidence to support the need for more stringent air pollution standards and their potential to reduce the risk of AKI.
Harmful effects of air pollution
During the study period of 2000 to 2016, the team collected and analyzed data on more than 61 million patients who were over the age of 65 and enrolled in Medicare. They found that exposure to PM2.5, NO2 and O3 increased the probability of first hospital admissions for AKI.
It should be noted that this association was observed even at annual exposures lower than the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard. The findings suggest that stricter regulations on air pollution could reduce the risk of AKI, which would benefit public health.
The study also found that older adults age 75 and older, white people, and people not eligible for Medicare were more susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution on kidney function.
The southeastern region of the United States, with high PM2.5 levels, had the highest frequency of first hospital admissions for AKI. On the other hand, metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago had the highest NO2 levels, while California had the highest O3 concentration.
These findings underscore the urgent need for stricter air pollution regulations and measures to protect vulnerable populations from the harmful effects of air pollution.
Professor Lee explains: “Our findings suggest beneficial implications for public health policies to alleviate healthcare costs and the disease burden attributable to AKI and also provide epidemiological evidence for the value of air pollution guidelines for patients potentials with AKI”.
The study highlights the importance of public health policies aimed at reducing air pollution levels to improve kidney health and overall health outcomes. More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying this link and to identify effective interventions to mitigate the impact of air pollution on kidney health.
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