Air pollution can worsen bone health: research

Washington: Some of the common consequences of air pollution on our health are widely known, such as lung cancer, increase in respiratory diseases, stroke, etc. But so far there has been less awareness on the effect of air pollution on bone health which a research team has discovered.

A study in India led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by ‘la Caixa’, has found an association between exposure to air pollution and poor bone health.

The study published in Jama Network Open, analysed the relationship between air pollution to that of bone health, taking an account of 3,700 people from 28 villages outside the city of Hyderabad, in southern India.

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A locally-developed model was used by the authors of the study to estimate the outdoor exposure at a residence to air pollution by fine particulate matter (suspended particles with a diameter of 2.5 mm or less) and black carbon.

A questionnaire was also filled by the participants on the type of fuel used for cooking.

The authors linked this information with bone health assessed using a special type of radiography that measures bone density, called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and measured bone mass at the lumbar spine and the left hip.

The results showed that exposure to ambient air pollution, particularly to fine particles, was associated with lower levels of bone mass. No correlation was found with the use of biomass fuel for cooking.

“This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health,” explains Otavio T. Ranzani, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study. Regarding the possible mechanisms underlying this association, he says “inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution”.

Annual average exposure to ambient PM2.5 was 32.8 mg/m3, far above the maximum levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (10 mg/m3). 58 per cent of participants used biomass fuel for cooking.

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