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A new study published in eClinicalMedicine has found a link between air Pollution and bone loss through osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a chronic skeletal condition that makes bones more fragile and likely to break. The risk of osteoporosis rises with age, and it’s particularly common in postmenopausal women. The study followed a diverse group of 9,041 postmenopausal women over six years and specifically looked at bone mineral density: an indirect indicator of osteoporosis and fracture risk.
The researchers used home addresses to estimate the levels of nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and PM10 particulate matter in the participants’ areas. They found that as Pollution levels went up, bone mineral density went down across all areas of the body, including the neck, spine, and hip. The study showed that poor air quality is a risk factor for bone loss independent of socioeconomic or demographic characteristics.
Past studies have shown a link between air Pollution and a higher risk of bone fractures and greater bone loss over time. However, this new research adds data on postmenopausal women and air Pollution mixes. The researchers highlighted the link between nitrogen and the spine, with a jump of 10 percent of this kind of Pollution over three years associated with an average yearly loss of 1.22 percent in lumbar spine bone mineral density, twice the amount calculated from normal aging.
According to the researchers, bone cell death is caused by mechanisms including oxidative stress, where toxic molecules from the environment cause damage to the body. There needs to be more than one study to prove a causal relationship between air Pollution and bone loss. Still, considering the mass of research forming, it is an increasingly plausible hypothesis.
It’s also worth noting that while this study looked at postmenopausal women, the participants covered a wide range of ethnic groups, locations, lifestyles, and socioeconomic backgrounds, making it more likely that Pollution levels were, indeed, the underlying cause of bone loss.
The researchers want to see further efforts made in reducing air Pollution, particularly from traffic, a significant producer of nitrogen oxides. They also want to detect people who might be more vulnerable to air Pollution, including those with osteoporosis.
“Improvements in air Pollution exposure, particularly nitrogen oxides, will reduce bone damage in postmenopausal women, prevent bone fractures, and reduce the health cost burden associated with osteoporosis among postmenopausal women,” says epigeneticist Andrea Baccarelli from Columbia University.
This study highlights another reason why reducing air Pollution is critical to our health and well-being. While it may seem like an overwhelming task, there are things we can do to reduce our contribution to air Pollution. These include driving less, using public transportation, biking or walking whenever possible, and supporting clean energy policies.
We can also make a difference by urging our elected officials to take action on air Pollution. By calling, emailing, or writing to our representatives, we can let them know that we care about this issue and want to see changes made to protect our health and the health of our planet.
Air Pollution is a severe threat to our health and the health of our bones. While this study focused on postmenopausal women, the risks of air Pollution affect us all. Let’s take action today to reduce our contribution to air Pollution and call on our elected officials to do the same. Together, we can create a healthier, more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.
Air Pollution is an invisible killer and has been linked to so many diseases, including fatty liver disease, depression and other mental health issues, and a study even found that nearly 6 million babies born prematurely in 2019 were likely linked to air pollution. Eating meat has been linked to a rise in air pollution, and factory farms are one of the biggest to blame for our dirty air. According to the WHO, an estimated 4.2 million people every year are killed from outdoor air Pollution, and 99 percent of the global population breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, with low and middle-income areas disproportionately affected. Check out these eco-artists that are using their art to call attention to the massive problem of air Pollution and sign the petition to demand federal clean-up of disproportionately affected polluted areas in the United States.
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