Global Warming Linked to Increase in Kidney Stones

ORLANDO, Florida, May 19, 2008 (ENS) – Links between environmental conditions and urinary tract diseases are emerging from papers presented this week at the 103rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association taking place in Orlando.

Rising global temperatures could lead to an increase in kidney stones, according to research conducted by Margaret Pearle, Yair Lotan, and T. Brikowski and published in the “Journal of Urology.”

The southern United States is considered “the stone belt” because these states have higher incidences of kidney stones. Current risk of stone disease in the Southeast is up to 50 percent higher than for the Northwest, the researchers say.

Rising global temperatures could expand this region; the fraction of the U.S. population living in high-risk stone zones is predicted to grow from 40 percent in 2000 to 50 percent by 2050.

Kidney stones, small but painful.
(Photo courtesy Texas A&M )

This could lead to an increase of one to two million lifetime cases of kidney stone disease, the scientists warn.

Dehydration has been linked to kidney stone disease, particularly in warmer climates, and global warming will worsen this effect. As a result, the prevalence of stone disease may increase, along with the costs of treating the condition, the researchers say.

Using published data to determine the temperature-dependence of kidney stone disease, researchers applied predictions of temperature increase to determine the impact of global warming on the incidence and cost of stone disease in the United States.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates an increase in temperature by 2050 for much of the United States. These findings place a greater significance on the harmful effects of global warming.

The impact of climate changes in stone disease will not be uniformly distributed and will likely be concentrated in the southern half of the country, according to one computer model or in the upper Midwest, according to another model, the researchers say.

They estimate that the cost associated with treating kidney stone disease could climb as high as one $1 billion annually by 2050, representing a 10 to 20 percent increase over current estimates.

The scientists point to a less well-defined kidney stone belt in Africa, the Mideast and South Asia that they say will experience similar changes, with a greater impact on morbidity in developing nations.

The same research was presented at the October 2007 meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, Colorado.

In another presentation, scientists Sunday warned that the incidence of urological abnormalities such as undescended testicles are higher in boys whose mothers had high serum levels of certain organochlorine compounds.

Two separate studies presented Sunday during the American Urological Association, AUA, meeting in Orlando confirmed existing hypotheses that maternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to an increased incidence of these conditions.

These chemicals include total polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, such as Arochlor, and organochlorinated pesticides, such as DDT. Both these long-lasting chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States, but still are prevalent in the environment.

“Mothers with known exposure to these enduring compounds should tell not only their own doctors but also their sons’ pediatricians,” said Anthony Y. Smith, MD, a spokesman for the AUA. “These data underscore the importance of regular ‘well-baby checkups’ so that these easily treatable conditions are diagnosed promptly.”

The studies on which the organochlorine presentations are based are cited as:

* Chen JJ, Zhang G, Wasnick R, Priebe C, Roelof B, Steinhardt GF et al: Maternal Burden of organochloro-compounds associated with undescended testes. J Urol, suppl., 2008; 179: 97, abstract 276.

* DeCaro JJ, Small CM, Terrell ML, Dominguez CE, Cameron LL, Wirth J, et al: Maternal exposure to polybrominated biphenyls and genitourinary conditions in male offspring. J Urol, suppl., 2008; 179: 97, abstract 277.

Founded in 1902 and headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, the American Urological Association is the foremost professional organization for urologists, with more than 15,000 members throughout the world.

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