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Exploring the effects of environmental factors on Chronic Kidney Disease

This research examines possible links between soil elements, deprivation and chronic kidney disease (CKD) data from the UK Renal Registry including Chronic Kidney Disease of uncertain aetiology (CKDu) to investigate the impact of environmental toxins including air pollution data on human health.

This study uses data from the UK Renal Registry including CKD of uncertain aetiology (CKDu), which have not previously been studied for UKRR data to investigate environmental factors. Using an urban soil geochemistry database of total element concentrations, we examined the statistical relationship between Standardised Incidence Rates (SIRs) of CKD and CKDu with social deprivation measures and environmental factors. The research uses a 'compositional balance approach' combined with a robust regression modelling approach to investigate the relationship between urbanisation and chronic kidney disease.

The findings and show a statistically significant relationships between CKD with employment and income (taken to be a proxy of smoking) and arsenic and molybdenum (taken as proxies of atmospheric pollution, particularly from transport).

 The findings from this work are important to gain a greater understanding of the link between human health and environmental toxins from anthropogenic sources including air pollution.

This research involves a multidisciplinary team from geography, geoscience, mathematics and health practitioners

For more information please contact Prof Jennifer McKinley

Impacts of the research

This interdisciplinary research on the links between health and the natural environment has involved working within the UK and Ireland with the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and more recently with the nephrology research group, Belfast Health Trust and the UK Renal Registry. 

 Chronic kidney disease (CKD), a collective term for many causes of progressive renal failure, is increasing worldwide due to ageing and a general increase in obesity and diabetes. CKD attributed to unknown aetiology (termed CKDu) is an increasing issue globally with the occurrence of geographic clusters appearing to suggest potential underlying environmental causes of CKDu.

 Recent reviews of the impact of air pollution on human health have shown scientific evidence for the detrimental effects of air pollutants, including environmental toxins which may become blood-borne and translocate to tissues such as the liver, brain and kidney. Atmospheric pollution deposition from traffic and brake wear emissions have been discovered to be important potential sources of toxic metals including arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), iron (Fe), molybdenum (Mo), lead (Pb), tin (Sn), antimony (Sb), Uranium (U) and Zinc (Zn).  

 Although CKDu is a global problem, recognised by WHO, this is the first study to use the UK renal registry data to investigate CKDu in the UK and is arguably the first to examine the relationship between CKDu, CKD and urbanisation globally.

Publications from this research