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Published July 11, 2014 02:14 PM

New Study Links Kidney Stones to...Warming Climate?

In a study that may both reflect and foretell a warming planet's impact on human health, a research team found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several US cities with varying climates.

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"We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones," said study leader Gregory E. Tasian, MD, MSc, MSCE, a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who is on the staff of the Hospital's Kidney Stone Center as well as the Hospital's Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness (CPCE).

Tasian, senior author Ron Keren, MD, MPH, also of CHOP and CPCE, and colleagues from other centers published their results today in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The Urologic Diseases in America Project, supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, sponsored the study.

The study team analyzed medical records of more than 60,000 adults and children with kidney stones between 2005 and 2011 in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, in connection with weather data. Tasian and colleagues described the risk of stone presentation for the full range of temperatures in each city.

As mean daily temperatures rose above 50F (10C), the risk of kidney stone presentation increased in all the cities except Los Angeles. The delay between high daily temperatures and kidney stone presentation was short, peaking within three days of exposure to hot days.

"These findings point to potential public health effects associated with global climate change," said Tasian. "However," cautions Tasian, "although 11 percent of the US population has had kidney stones, most people have not. It is likely that higher temperatures increase the risk of kidney stones in those people predisposed to stone formation." Higher temperatures contribute to dehydration, which leads to a higher concentration of calcium and other minerals in the urine that promote the growth of kidney stones.

A painful condition that brings half a million patients a year to U.S. emergency rooms, kidney stones have increased markedly over the world in the past three decades. While stones remain more common in adults, the numbers of children developing kidney stones have climbed at a dramatically high rate over the last 25 years.

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Kidney stones image via Shutterstock.

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