Investigating relations between environmental toxins in northern Irish soils and streams and Chronic Kidney Disease prevalence

Chloe E. Jackson, Jennifer M. McKinley, Ulrich Ofterdinger, Damian Fogarty, Peter M. Atkinson, Sherry Palmer

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The unknown aetiology of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has attracted recent attention as a result of the increasing global prevalence and recent reviews of occupational and environmental exposure to nephrotoxins. The main focus of this research is to examine the potential relationship between environmental exposure to known nephrotoxins including arsenic, cadmium and lead and the potential health risk associated with the progressive dysfunction of the kidneys in renal impaired patients with CKD across Northern Ireland. In addition to these known nephrotoxins, co-abundance with several essential elements has been found to play a role as protecting mechanisms while others increase the uptake of nephrotoxic elements as a result of similar absorption mechanisms within the body. Key elements protecting the body from toxicity include selenium and zinc, whereas those which have been attributed to enhance the uptake of arsenic, cadmium and lead include iron and calcium. The compositional nature of the soil and stream geochemical data is explored to aid in the analysis of interactions between elements. Two approaches, one data-driven and the other knowledge-driven, are explored to investigate the associations between co-abundant elements. The bioaccessibility of these elements, which is the portion of the relevant toxin absorbed within the body, is also investigated to identify areas across Northern Ireland with an increased environmental hazard and potential health risk. The study uses a combination of datasets from the United Kingdom Renal Registry (UKRR) unknown aetiology subset, the soil and stream geochemical dataset from the Tellus Survey (GSNI) with the addition of a bioaccessibility subset. Findings suggest a relationship between the presence of elevated arsenic in stream waters and impaired renal function of the kidneys. Interactions between essential elements and potentially toxic elements could explain the regional variation of CKD of uncertain aetiology across Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-246
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Early online date27 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Environmental toxins
  • arsenic (As)
  • Cadmium
  • Geochemistry
  • Bioaccessibility
  • kidney disease


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