Global Warming May Up Kidney Stone Risk: Study

"I don't think you can compare it to something globally like malaria, which kills 2 million people per year, most of whom are children," he says.

And he adds that singling out kidney stones as yet another consequence of global warming could be the wrong approach when it comes to communicating effectively with the public.

"When you focus on the health effects of climate change, it might be wrong to pick out single outcomes and be overly focused on those," he says.

It is a point with which Kristi Ebi agrees.

"The study is suggestive of the idea that kidney stones are a risk that people have not considered in the past," says Ebi, lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report and an independent consultant on the health effects of global climate change.

She says that she would have liked for the research to include some sense of whether these additional cases of kidney stones would be preventable.

"For a lot of health issues, at some point people just tune it out," Ebi says. "There seem to be these phases we go through. We hear that this causes cancer and that causes cancer. At one point, the public says 'everything causes cancer, and I'm not going to worry about it.' This is not effective risk communication."

Brikowski acknowledges that this research is still in its primary phases, and that the exact toll of global warming in the form of kidney stones begs for further elucidation.

Still, he notes, this connection may well just scratch the surface of many other human health effects brought about by widespread climate change. And with these new revelations, he says, health and climate experts will likely begin working more closely to assess these impacts.

"We're going to see more of these unusual collaborations," he says.

Lauren Cox and Lara Salahi contributed to this report.

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