Fluoride Action Network


The kidneys are a frequent target organ for toxicity from exposures to various environmental chemicals and agents. To understand the risk to human health from such exposures, it is important to consider both the underlying chemical and pathologic mechanisms and factors that may modify susceptibility to injury. Choices of exemplary environmental agents to review are based on those with selective effects on the kidneys and for which significant amounts of mechanistic and human data are available. These include the heavy metals cadmium and arsenic, fluoride, the organic solvents trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, drinking water disinfection by-products haloacids, food and herbal drug contaminants aristolochic acid and melamine, and heat stress. Some common mechanistic features of all these diverse exposures are highlighted, and include oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage. Two major genetic factors that are discussed include genetic polymorphisms in plasma membrane transporters that catalyze uptake and accumulation or efflux and elimination of environmental chemicals, and genetic polymorphisms in bioactivation enzymes that generate toxic and reactive metabolites. Identification of methods to prevent environmental toxicant-associated kidney damage and understanding the genetic factors that influence kidney function and the kidney’s response to exposures can be applied to refine risk assessments.