Pollution And Your Bones
Breathing polluted air appears to be bad for bones. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public health looked at environmental factors and osteoporosis-related bone fractures among 9.2 million Medicare patients between 2003-2010. They concluded that exposure to air pollution is associated with loss of bone mineral density and an increased risk of broken bones. This association was most prominent among residents of low-income communities with elevated levels of air pollution, including a particular component of air pollution known as PM2.5. The team also studied 692 middle-aged low-income adults in the Boston area and found that those with a higher level of exposure to PM2.5 and black carbon (air pollution from auto emissions) had lower levels of parathyroid hormone (which influences calcium deposition in bones) and greater decreases in bone mineral density than those exposed to lower levels of these pollutants. The investigators wrote that particulate matter including PM2.5 is known to cause inflammation and systemic oxidative damage, which they suggested could speed bone loss and increase the risk of fractures. They also noted that tobacco smoke, which contains several particulate matter components, has been consistently linked to bone damage.
My take? We know that air pollution can worsen respiratory problems, is linked to a greater risk of stroke and heart attack and also appears to heighten anxiety. Evidence also shows that air pollution plays a role in diabetes, low birth weight, preterm births and can set off systemic inflammation that may affect multiple organ systems. The Columbia University study is the first to show a connection between elevated levels of air pollution and hospital admissions for broken bones.
Andrea A. Baccarelli et al “Association of air particulate pollution with bone loss over time and bone fracture risk: analysis of data from two independent studies.” The Lancet,
November, 2017, dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30136-5
Also in this week’s bulletin: