A study from Columbia University, in the United States, stated that air pollution is associated with bone loss in postmenopausal women.
The research, led by scientists at the Mailman School and published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, pointed out that this condition could increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become brittle and more prone to fractures.
In the United States, osteoporosis affects more women than men: 80% of the 10 million inhabitants with this disease are women. In addition, those who have already gone through their menopause are at greater risk, since one in two women over the age of 50 suffers a fracture due to this fragility in the bones.
Another risk factor, according to the researchers, is environmental contamination which could have effects on the bones that make up the lumbar spine. There, nitrous oxides – a type of volatile and colourless gas – were twice as harmful to normal ageing.
How does the study was realized?
Over 6 years, the researchers analyzed data collected from an ethnically diverse group of 161,808 women who had already gone through menopause. The calculations for the analysis included the exposure to air pollution according to the residences of the participants.
They used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to measure bone mineral density at enrollment and at year one, year three, and year six follow-up.
“Our results confirm that poor air quality may be a risk factor for bone loss, regardless of socioeconomic or demographic factors,” said study first author Dr. Diddier Prada, an associate research scientist in the Department of Health Sciences. Environmental Science from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.
That is why, for the first time, the scientist affirms that there is evidence that “nitrogen oxides contribute to a great extent to bone damage, to which the lumbar spine is more susceptible.”
Another co-author, Andrea Baccarelli, head of Columbia University’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, emphasized that women should live in environments that are freer from air pollution, and that additional efforts “should focus on detecting the people with the highest risk of bone damage related to air conditions,” Baccarelli pointed out.
Exposure to air pollution also has other detrimental effects on human health. It is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells.
These alterations can lay the foundation for chronic diseases and cancer. In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified air pollution as a human carcinogen.
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