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expert reaction to new study on proximity to main roads and kidney function

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggested living close to a major road may impair kidney function and so help contribute to the known impact of air pollution on cardiovascular risk.


Dr Tim Chico, Senior Clinical Lecturer and honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University of Sheffield / Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, 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. For example, most people with kidney disease have high blood pressure which increases risk of heart disease, while heart disease and its treatment frequently places a strain on kidney function. Since we know traffic pollution increases the risk of heart disease, the message of this study – that traffic pollution might damage the kidneys – is perhaps to be expected. 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. However, the current study only shows an “association”; it does not prove living next to road definitely affects kidney function.”


Professor Jon Ayres, Professor of Environmental and Respiratory Medicine, University of Birmingham, said:

“This is an interesting and plausible association but the effects are small.  If the effect on kidney function is real it is likely mediated through an effect of airborne particulate matter on vascular atheroma. However, the possibility that arterial disease leads to stroke and therefore also leads to renal impairment is the most likely explanation of the association (i.e. reverse causation).  The demonstrated effect of distance from roads on health may be more likely explained by a social class effect; those living nearest main roads tending to be of lower social class and therefore tending to be in poorer health anyway and although the authors have made some allowance for socio-economic status a residual effect of social class is still likely to remain.  Nevertheless this needs replication in another study.”



‘Residual proximity to major roadways and renal function’ by Shih-Ho Lue et al. published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  on Monday 13th May.

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