The researchers from VA Saint Louis Health Care System found a linear relationship between air pollution levels and risk of experiencing kidney function decline and of developing kidney disease or kidney failure.
The study revealed that the effects on the kidneys are seen at low levels of particulate matter and increase linearly with rising levels of pollution.
Lead researcher Ziyad Al-Aly examined information on 2,482,737 U.S. veterans who were followed for a median of 8.5 years.
Air pollution levels were also assessed using space-borne sensors from NASA satellites.
The results suggested that each year in the United States, 44,793 new cases of CKD and 2438 new cases of kidney failure are attributed to particulate matter air pollution exceeding the EPA's recommended limit of 12 µg/m3.
"Even levels below the limit set by the EPA were harmful to the kidneys," Dr Al-Aly noted.
He stated that the burden is not evenly distributed geographically: the highest toll seems to be in southern California and in large swaths of the Midwest, the Northeast, and the South.
The findings have implications outside the United States and may help explain the substantial variation in the burden of kidney disease observed around the world.
The research appears in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). (ANI)