The findings showed that air pollution increased the chances of developing membranous nephropathy - an immune disorder of the kidneys - that can lead to kidney failure.

Long-term exposure to high levels of particulate matter (PM 2.5) was associated with an increased risk of membranous nephropathy.

Previous studies have showed that increased exposure to air pollution may raise respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

To examine how particulate matter in the air is affecting kidney health, a team analysed data on kidney biopsies taken over 11 years from 71,151 patients from 938 hospitals in 282 cities across China, encompassing all age groups.

The areas with high levels of fine particulate air pollution had the highest rates of membranous nephropathy.

On average, the likelihood of developing membranous nephropathy increased 13 per cent annually over the 11-year study period."Our primary finding is that the frequency of membranous nephropathy has doubled over the last decade in China.

We show that the increase corresponds closely with the regional distribution of particulate air pollution," said lead author Fan Fan Hou of China's Southern Medical University.

The results, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), calls for attention on the role of air pollution in the development of kidney disease in urban areas, the researchers concluded.

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