People Exposed To Air Pollution May Have Bone Problems

The effects of air pollution have long been linked to numerous health problems, such as respiratory diseases, stroke and cancer. Now, researchers want to add bone issues to the list of the impacts of poor air quality on the body. 

The new study, published in the journal Jama Network Open, shows the link between long term exposure to air pollution and poor bone health. Researchers analyzed data from more than 3,700 people from 28 villages in southern India.

The team from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) asked participants to answer questions about the type of fuel they commonly use for cooking. To examine their outdoor exposure to air pollution, researchers used a locally-developed model that measures fine particulate matter and black carbon. 

A special type of radiography helped the researchers assess the bone health of participants after collecting information on indoor and outdoor air quality. They looked into the people’s bone density and bone mass at the lumbar spine and left hip.

Results showed that people who were exposed to outdoor air pollution or high levels of fine particles had lower levels of bone mass. However, those who used biomass fuel for cooking did not experience changes in their bones. 

"This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health," Otavio Ranzani, study first author and researcher at ISGlobal, said in a statement. “Inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution.”

Some of the participants had an average exposure to ambient air pollution far above the maximum safe levels set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Researchers said people in low- and high-income countries may be experiencing the same effects of pollution on bones. 

"Our findings add to a growing body of evidence that indicates that particulate air pollution is relevant for bone health across a wide range of air pollution levels, including levels found in high income and low-and medium income countries" Cathryn Tonne, coordinator of the study, said.

In the U.S., many areas have been exposed to pollution levels higher than national air quality standards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The agency associated air pollution in the country to emissions and travelling long distances. EPA said long- and short-term exposures to poor air quality could make people at risk of cardiovascular conditions and premature death.

Air Pollution The World Health Organization estimates outdoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people every year around the world. Pixabay