With Climate Change, More Cases of Kidney Stones

With Climate Change, More Cases of Kidney Stones

January 2022

In addition to making events such as catastrophic flooding more frequent, climate change will negatively affect human health in many other ways. Prior research has demonstrated, for instance, that high ambient temperatures increase the risk of developing kidney stone disease. However these studies have not projected precisely how climate change will affect that future burden of disease. A recent study by Gregory Tasian, MD, MSc, MSCE, and colleagues addressed this gap: It showed that rising temperatures due to climate change will lead to an increase in cases of kidney stones over the next seven decades, even if we take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

To accomplish this, Dr. Tasian and co. created a model to estimate the impact of heat on future kidney stone presentations in South Carolina. They chose to use South Carolina as a model state because it lies within a region of the Southeastern U.S. that has a higher incidence of kidney stone disease; the state also has an all-payer claims database, meaning they could capture kidney stone presentations across the population, regardless of payer status. The researchers first determined the relationship between kidney stone presentations and historical daily statewide mean temperatures from 1997 to 2014 — using wet-bulb temperature, a measure that accounts for both heat and humidity and is more accurate for predicting kidney stones. They then used those data to forecast the number of kidney stones and associated costs attributable to heat up to the year 2089, based on projected daily wet-bulb temperature under two climate change scenarios — one with no policy actions; one with moderate mitigation steps. Their study found that the increase will be steeper if no action is taken, but that an uptick will occur even with some mitigation actions. The cost to this one state healthcare system alone would be approximately $99 million if we change nothing and $57 million in the latter scenario. 

“With climate change, we don't often talk about the impact on human health, particularly when it comes to children, but a warming planet will have significant effects,” says Dr. Tasian, a pediatric urologist. “As pediatric researchers, we have a duty to explore the burden of climate change on human health, as the children of today will be living this reality in the future.”


Jason Kaufman, Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera, Vicky Tam, Lihai Song, Ethan Coffel and Gregory Tasian 

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