The study estimates that a warming planet will likely increase the number of kidney stone cases between 2.2% – 3.9% depending on emission levels.
In the coming decades worsening climate crisis will lead to more kidney stones due to more sweating and dehydration, according to a new study
The research was conducted at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers claim that even if the world takes urgent action to arrest climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, they expect cases to rise, however, if emissions are not quickly brought under acceptable limits, kidney stones are on track to become increasingly common.
The research was carried out in South Carolina – a state in the south-east US – which currently has a higher than average incidence rate and is often described as the “kidney stone belt” of the country.
Scientists used two climate scenarios to examine the connection between rising temperatures and kidney stones.
They created a model based on South Carolina kidney stone case and climate data from 1997 to 2014. That data was then used to create two forecasts: one based on aggressive greenhouse gas reductions, and another based on unhindered emissions.
Their estimates found that by 2089, the number of cases will increase between 2.2% – 3.9% depending on whether greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate or are limited to an intermediate level.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that develop in concentrated urine.
They occur when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – than the fluid in your urine can dilute.
The NHS explains that stones usually pass out painlessly in urine, but in some cases, they grow to the size of a golf ball, and become very painful to excrete. They also lead to other complications such as urinary tract infections.
About one in 10 people suffer from kidney stones at some point in the US and the incidence increases from north to south. Moreover, the condition is more widespread among people of color, women and adolescents.
While diet and lifestyle changes does contribute to the rise in kidney stones, previous studies have shown that high ambient temperatures also raise the risk.
The number of people seeking medical help for kidney stones spikes following very hot days when the risk of dehydration shoots up.
‘A warming planet = an increased burden of kidney stone disease’
Dr Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist at the hospital and senior author of the study said: “It is impossible to predict with certainty how future policies will slow or hasten greenhouse gas emission and anthropogenic climate change, and to know exactly what future daily temperatures will be,’
“[But] our analysis suggests that a warming planet will likely cause an increased burden of kidney stone disease on healthcare systems.”
Climate change impact on humans
The study is just the latest addition to a growing body of research on the many health impacts of climate change.
The WHO deems climate change “the biggest health threat facing humanity.”
A separate study published in the journal Science states that children born recently will suffer from environmental impacts significantly more than their elders.
For example, children born in 2020 will, on average, experience nearly seven times as many heat waves, twice as many wildfires and three times as many crop failures compared to those born 60 years ago.
“With climate change, we don’t often talk about the impact on human health, particularly when it comes to children, but a warming planet will have significant effects on human health,” Dr. Tasian, added.
“As pediatric researchers, we have a duty to explore the burden of climate change on human health, as the children of today will be living this reality in the future.”
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