Climate change over the next few decades could lead to an increase in cases of kidney stones, which would incur huge costs for health systems, according to research by scientists in the United States.
A study, published in Scientific Reports, found that even if measures were put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there would still be an increase in cases of painful conditions.
A research team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia knew from previous studies that high temperatures and dehydration increased the risk of developing kidney stones.
With this latest study, scientists sought to project the impact of climate change on the burden of kidney stones on health systems in the future, The Independent newspaper reported.
Kidney stone disease is caused by hard deposits of minerals that build up in concentrated urine and cause pain when passing through the urinary tract.
The researchers said the incidence of the disease has increased over the past 20 years.
Scientists have created a model to estimate the impact of heat on future presentations of kidney stones in the state of South Carolina in the southeastern United States, where the incidence of kidney stones is higher .
The model predicts that the number of cases will increase between 2.2% and 3.9% by 2089, depending on projected daily temperatures under two climate change scenarios.
In the first scenario, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to an intermediate level as humans shift to the use of low-emitting energy sources, while in the second, emissions continue at current pace.
In the first scenario, average temperatures increase by 2.3 C by 2100, compared to 3.6 C in the second. These projections are taken from studies carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations.
In comments with a press release, Gregory E Tasian, a urologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of the study, said: “While it is impossible to predict with certainty how future policies will slow or will accelerate greenhouse gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, and to know exactly what future daily temperatures will be, our analysis suggests that global warming is likely to lead to an increased burden of kidney stone disease on health systems.
“With climate change, we don’t often talk about the impact on human health, especially when it comes to children, but a warming planet will have significant effects on human health.
“As pediatric researchers, we have a duty to explore the burden of climate change on human health, because children today will experience this reality in the future.”