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Ask Dr. Nandi: Study ties household chemicals to kidney harm

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 17:39:38-04

BA study looking at widely used household chemicals found they may be harming your kidneys.  And children may be at a greater risk than adults.

What household chemicals should we be concerned about?

This group of man-made chemicals is the same ones that were reportedly contaminating waterlines in West Michigan this summer.  

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS are unfortunately common because manufacturing companies use them in many products like food packaging, cleaning products, nonstick cookware, paints, water-repellent fabrics and fire-fighting foams. They can contaminate our soil, food, and air so people can easily be exposed to these chemicals. And if these environmental toxins enter our bloodstream, our kidneys have to deal with them. Their job is to remove waste and extra fluid from our bodies so it’s not surprising to hear they may be harmed.  

How might the PFAS be harming our kidneys?

The researchers looked at 74 studies and found cellular changes from PFAS exposure along with several altered pathways linked to kidney disease. Plus they found kidney function can be negatively affected or worsened, leading to overall poorer kidney function. Unfortunately, the researchers felt children may have greater exposure to these chemicals. But a lot more research is needed to understand the long-term health effects for everyone.  

What are the signs of kidney disease?

About 30 million people have chronic kidney disease, that’s more than 1 in 7 people. Having this condition means your kidneys are damaged and not filtering the blood as they are supposed to. This can develop slowly over time. Some people don’t have symptoms and may not know they have a problem until their kidney function is considerably impaired. But symptoms to look out for include:

  • Changes in how much you urinate
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Swelling of ankles or feet
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

If you’re concerned, please see your doctor. There are urine and blood tests that look at kidney function which can help with a diagnosis.