Many of the negative effects of air pollution are well documented. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, stroke, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and so on.
Now, according to a new study in India led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), exposure to air pollution is also associated with a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased.
The study, which surveyed 3,700 people from 28 villages in southern India, was recently published in the medical journal Jama Network Open.
The researchers used a model to estimate air pollution by fine particulate matter (commonly referred to as PM2.5) and black carbon at each participant’s residence. The research team then assessed bone health using a special type of radiography (called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) that measures bone density. They measured bone mass of the participants’ left hip and at the lumbar spine.
The results showed that exposure to air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter, was associated with lower levels of bone mass. Annual average exposure to PM2.5 was 32.8 micrograms per cubic meter, well above the maximum levels recommended by the World Health Organization (10 micrograms per cubic meter) and the U.S. EPA (12 micrograms per cubic meter).
The researchers say their findings add to a growing body of evidence that indicates that particulate air pollution is relevant for bone health.
Air pollution can worsen bone health
Photo, posted November 15, 2019, courtesy of Ninara via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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