Study links kidney stones to global warming

A new study concludes global warming will result in as many as 2.2 million new cases of kidney stones by the year 2050. Dr. Glenn Chertow is chief of nephrology, or kidney disease, at Stanford's School of Medicine.

"Well, it's an interesting and concerning hypothesis," says Dr. Chertow.

If you're looking for the logic, here it is. The people most at risk for kidney stones live in the southeast where it's hot and humid. Those conditions lead to dehydration which accelerates stone formation.

Kidney stones are painful deposits caused when concentrated urine crystallizes into chunks too large to comfortably pass through the bladder. Dr. Chertow says one in 20 men and one in 10 women will experience the condition.

The study linking climate change to an increase in kidney stones was published by the National Academy of Sciences.

A graphic presented shows the so-called kidney stone belt in 2000 which puts 41 percent of the population in a high risk zone. The authors conclude global warming will increase that zone to include 56 percent of the population by 2050 and 70 percent by 2095.

The prediction, however, assumes a direct and isolated correlation that's debated in medical circles.

"So whether a person in the southeast has more kidney stones because it's warmer there than it is in Northern California, or because his or her diet is different, or he or she has other risk factors, is unclear," says Dr. Chertow.

Dr. Stephen Schneider has long warned of the negative impacts of global warming. He helped produce the U.N. report on climate change and joined Al Gore as a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

"We have enough problems we are very confident in without having to worry about weather kidney stones will or won't be exacerbated by global warming. Let's study it," says Dr. Schneider.

Doctors say the best advice for anyone at risk for kidney stones is to drink plenty of water, and if the predictions pan out, more people may be doing just that.

The Back Story:
For more on this story and some of the skepticism concerning the findings, read The Back Story.

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