Stuck in traffic? Pull up the windows. A new study suggests that traffic fumes may cause kidney problems. People residing near busy streets are also at a much higher risk of developing kidney problems than those who live in other residential areas.
The US based investigators examined 1,100 patients and finally confirmed the fact that chronic exposure to traffic fumes may lead to the development of kidney diseases in previously healthy individuals.
This work, led by Dr Murray Mittleman and his colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Medicine. They measured the kidney function in the study subjects by using a test known as GFR –– glomerular filtration rate. The GFR value is enough to suggest the presence or absence of kidney disease in an individual, and can effectively suggest the extent of functionality of the kidney.
The results also revealed that the difference between the GFR values of the patients that were exposed to traffic fumes, and those who were not, is comparable to the difference between the GFR values of someone four years older.
Dr Tim Chico, a heart expert at the University of Sheffield in the UK, said: "The importance of healthy kidneys is often overlooked, but many of the things that can damage the heart also affect these vital organs.
"Many people are unaware of the close link between heart and kidney disease, but problems with one often lead to problems with the other."
The fact that long-term exposure to traffic and exhaust fumes contribute to a decreased heart function and an increased risk of vascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke is already known, and this study helps shed light on some more potentially life threatening health conditions that may occur after such exposure.
Steps need to be taken to minimize the air pollution and help enrich the quality of life of ourselves and the people living around us. "The responsibility to reduce traffic pollution falls on everyone, and this study is yet another reason - as if we needed one - to travel on foot or bike where possible," Chico says.