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  • Writer's pictureKidney Foundation of WNY

Particulate Matter Air Pollution Can Be Dangerous for People with Kidney Disease

Size comparisons for PM particles. Source:

Poor air quality, such as the type now affecting Western New York, is a cause for concern for people with existing health conditions (1) including kidney disease. Wildfires burning in the Quebec, Canada are creating hazy skies and reducing air quality in much of New York State (2).

Fine particulate matter from the fires are small enough to get into the lungs and bloodstream, causing health issues. These fine particles are classified as PM2.5, as they are 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller. The New York State Department of Health recommends that people limit strenuous outdoor activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects (3).

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that all people take steps to limit the amount of air they breathe in when particle pollution is high, such as:

  • Think about spending more time indoors, where particle pollution levels are usually lower.

  • Choose easier outdoor activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.

  • Avoid busy roads and highways where particulate matter is usually worse because of emissions from cars and trucks (4).

“Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath,” according to the New York State Department of Health, which issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for June 7. “Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM2.5.” (3)

If you have heart disease or other cardiac conditions, breathing in particle pollution can cause serious problems like a heart attack, according to the Erie County Department of Health. Symptoms can include chest pain or tightness, fast heartbeat, feeling out of breath and being more tired than usual. If you have any of these signs, contact your doctor. Be sure to let your doctor know if the symptoms get worse or last longer than usual (1).

The Erie County Department of Health also provided advice for people concerned about indoor air quality, "Consider air filters and use as directed. When the outdoor air is smoky and pollutant levels are high, do not rely on ventilation to bring outdoor air indoors. Close up windows and doors. Close fireplace dampers. Turn off ventilation systems" (1).

Several health studies indicate that short term exposure to high levels of air pollution, including PM2.5, are linked to higher emergency department visits and hospitalizations among people with kidney disease (5). Recent research in China found a significant association between short-term exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution and the risk of death from kidney disease (6).

Numerous studies have also linked long-term exposure to high ambient PM2.5 to the development of chronic kidney disease (7,8).

Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasts for the regions of New York State are online at Information for areas across the U.S. is available at


1. Smoke from Canadian wildfires reduces regional air quality; may cause adverse health effects. Erie County Department of Health. (2023, June 7).

2. Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on Canadian Wildfires Impacting State's Air Quality (2023, June 6)

3. Air Quality Health Advisory Issued for Long Island, New York City Metro, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York and Western New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. (2023, June 7).

4. Particle Pollution. Centers for Disease Control. (2023, February 16)

5. Bi, Jianzhao; Barry, Vaughn; Weil, Ethel J.; Chang, Howard H.; Ebelt, Stefanie. Short-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution and emergency department visits for kidney diseases in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Environmental Epidemiology 5(4):p e164, August 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/EE9.0000000000000164

6. Cai, M., Wei, J., Zhang, S. et al. Short-term air pollution exposure associated with death from kidney diseases: a nationwide time-stratified case-crossover study in China from 2015 to 2019. BMC Med 21, 32 (2023).

7. Li, Guoxing; Huang, Jing; Wang, Jinwei; Zhao, Minghui; Liu, Yang; Guo, Xinbiao; Wu, Shaowei; Zhang, Luxia. Long-Term Exposure to Ambient PM2.5 and Increased Risk of CKD Prevalence in China. JASN 32(2):p 448-458, February 2021. | DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2020040517

8. Al-Aly Z, Bowe B. Air Pollution and Kidney Disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020;15(3):301-303. doi:10.2215/CJN.16031219

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