Ambient Air Pollution and Mortality among Older Patients Initiating Maintenance Dialysis

Am J Nephrol. 2021;52(3):217-227. doi: 10.1159/000514233. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Background: Fine particulate matter (particulate matter with diameter <2.5 µm [PM2.5]) is associated with CKD progression and may impact the health of patients living with kidney failure. While older (aged ≥65 years) adults are most vulnerable to the impact of PM2.5, it is unclear whether older patients on dialysis are at elevated risk of mortality when exposed to fine particulate matter.

Methods: Older adults initiating dialysis (2010-2016) were identified from US Renal Data System (USRDS). PM2.5 concentrations were obtained from NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC) Global Annual PM2.5 Grids. We investigated the association between PM2.5 and all-cause mortality using Cox proportional hazard models with linear splines [knot at the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5 of 12 μg/m3] and robust variance.

Results: For older dialysis patients who resided in areas with high PM2.5, a 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with 1.16-fold (95% CI: 1.08-1.25) increased risk of mortality; furthermore, those who were female (aHR = 1.26, 95% CI: 1.13-1.42), Black (aHR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.09-1.59), or had diabetes as a primary cause of kidney failure (aHR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.13-1.38) were most vulnerable to high PM2.5. While the mortality risk associated with PM2.5 was stronger at higher levels (aHR = 1.19, 95% CI: 1.08-1.32), at lower levels (≤12 μg/m3), PM2.5 was significantly associated with mortality risk (aHR = 1.04, 95% CI: 1.00-1.07) among patients aged ≥75 years (Pslope difference = 0.006).

Conclusions: Older adults initiating dialysis who resided in ZIP codes with PM2.5 levels >12 μg/m3 are at increased risk of mortality. Those aged >75 were at elevated risk even at levels below the EPA Standard for PM2.5.

Keywords: Air pollution; Kidney failure; Mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality*
  • Male
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • United States / epidemiology