Science of The Total Environment

Combined effects of air pollution and extreme heat events among ESKD patients within the Northeastern United States

Richard V Remigio, Hao He, Jochen G Raimann, Peter Kotanko, Frank W Maddux, Amy Rebecca Sapkota, Xin-Zhong Liang, Robin Puett, Xin He, Amir Sapkota


Background: Increasing number of studies have linked air pollution exposure with renal function decline and disease. However, there is a lack of data on its impact among end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) patients and its potential modifying effect from extreme heat events (EHE).

Methods: Fresenius Kidney Care records from 28 selected northeastern US counties were used to pool daily all-cause mortality (ACM) and all-cause hospital admissions (ACHA) counts. County-level daily ambient PM2.5 and ozone (O3) were estimated using a high-resolution spatiotemporal coupled climate-air quality model and matched to ESKD patients based on ZIP codes of treatment sites. We used time-stratified case-crossover analyses to characterize acute exposures using individual and cumulative lag exposures for up to 3 days (Lag 0-3) by using a distributed lag nonlinear model framework. We used a nested model comparison hypothesis test to evaluate for interaction effects between air pollutants and EHE and stratification analyses to estimate effect measures modified by EHE days.

Results: From 2001 to 2016, the sample population consisted of 43,338 ESKD patients. We recorded 5217 deaths and 78,433 hospital admissions. A 10-unit increase in PM2.5 concentration was associated with a 5% increase in ACM (rate ratio [RRLag0-3]: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00-1.10) and same-day O3 (RRLag0: 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01-1.03) after adjusting for extreme heat exposures. Mortality models suggest evidence of interaction and effect measure modification, though not always simultaneously. ACM risk increased up to 8% when daily ozone concentrations exceeded National Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the United States, but the increases in risk were considerably higher during EHE days across lag periods.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest interdependent effects of EHE and air pollution among ESKD patients for all-cause mortality risks. National level assessments are needed to consider the ESKD population as a sensitive population and inform treatment protocols during extreme heat and degraded pollution episodes.

About the Contributors

Jochen G. Raimann, MD, PhD, MPH

Director, Data Analytics

Jochen has worked as a full-time scientist at RRI since his start as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2007. As Senior Manager of Clinical Data Analytics, Jochen conducts epidemiological research in dialysis and oversees many analytical projects. He has first- and co-authored numerous papers and also serves as Associate Editor of the journals Trials and Scientific Reports. ochen earned his MD from the Medical University Graz, his PhD from Maastricht University, and his MPH with a focus on epidemiology and biostatistics from the City University of New York School of Public Health.

Dr. Peter Kotanko, MD

RRI Research Director

SVP, Corporate Research & Development

Peter Kotanko, MD, is Research Director at the Renal Research Institute (RRI), New York. Prior to joining RRI, from 1997 to 2007 he served as vice chair of a department of internal medicine at an academic teaching hospital in Graz, Austria. Prior to moving to Graz in 1989, he worked from 1982 to 1989 in the Department of Physiology and the University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria. From 1995 to 1996 he trained in nephrology at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.