Air Pollution Increases Risk of Developing Osteoporosis: Study
Fri, December 3, 2021

Air Pollution Increases Risk of Developing Osteoporosis: Study

Osteoporosis is one of the common diseases of the skeletal system in which the quality and density of the bone are reduced. Its prevalence is expected to increase because of aging / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF

 

The health of our bones is important at every stage of life and age. They help provide structure and support to the body but bones are also continuously changing. People lose bone density or mass as they age, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis is one of the common diseases of the skeletal system in which the quality and density of the bone are reduced. Its prevalence is expected to increase because of aging. 

Several factors are recognized to affect bone health, such as physical activity, the amount of calcium in the diet, alcohol and tobacco use, size, gender, hormone levels, family history and race, and certain medications.  A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health ISGLOBAL, which is an alliance that aims to improve the health status of the most vulnerable populations, added a new factor: air pollution. 

Air Pollution and Bone Health

Their study titled “Association of Ambient and Household Air Pollution With Bone Mineral Content Among Adults in Peri-urban South India” analyzed the link between bone health and air pollution in more than 3,700 people from 23 villages outside Hyderabad, the capital of southern India’s Telangana state. 

Estimating Outdoor Exposure to Air Pollution

The authors utilized a linear mixed model that estimates outdoor exposure to air pollution of less than 2.5 µm or micrometer. Fine particles 2.5 refers to tiny droplets or particles of air that are two- and one-half microns or less in width. Because of its small size range, particles are known to travel deeply into the respiratory tract and can reach the lungs. The team also considered the participants’ exposure to black carbon (BC), a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter emitted from diesel engines, fossil fuels, and other fuels. Participants were likewise asked about the type of fuel they use when cooking their food. 

A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health ISGLOBAL, which is an alliance that aims to improve the health status of the most vulnerable populations, added a new factor: air pollution / Photo by: Vadym Marty via 123RF

 

Bone Densitometry 

After gathering the necessary information, the team used the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) to measure the participants’ bone density. DEXA or bone densitometry is commonly used in diagnosing osteoporosis as it uses only a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce images of the inside of the body to measure bone loss.

“We observed an association between ambient PM 2.5 and BC and low bone mass,” the team concluded. No correlation was, however, found with the participants’ use of biomass fuel when cooking their foodsas more than half of the participants live in homes where use solid biomass fuels for cooking.

ISGlobal's first author and researcher Otavio T. Ranzani explains that their findings contribute to the “inconclusive” and limited literature on bone health and air pollution. He continued to say that inhaling polluting particles could potentially lead to loss of bone mass through inflammation and oxidative stress that is caused by air pollution.

The study appeared in the journal Jama Network Open. Air pollution has also been previously documented to increase the risk of respiratory diseases, stroke, and lung cancer. 

Because of its small size range, particles are known to travel deeply into the respiratory tract and can reach the lungs / Photo by: Satjawat Boontanataweepol via 123RF

 

Air Pollution as an Environmental and Health Issue

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, published that air pollution is one of the leading contributors to global disease burden. In 2017, high blood pressure topped the list of disease burden by risk factor affecting 217.96 million people worldwide. It was followed by smoking (182.48 million), high blood sugar (170.57 million), obesity (147.69 million), and air pollution (147.42 million) both for indoor and outdoor air pollution. The data was measured based on Disability-Adjusted Life Years or DALYs. One DALY represents one lost year of healthy life because of disability or mortality.

In an interactive map, the online publication also published how air pollution is an environmental and health issue in different countries. Nations that are most affected by air pollution are Papua New Guinea (245.3 deaths per 100,000 population), Chad (159.1 deaths), Central African Republic (199.7), Somalia (165.8), Madagascar (155.1), Guinea (160.5), Afghanistan (183.9), and South Sudan (156.2). On the other hand, countries that are least affected by air pollution include the United States (18.8 deaths per 100,000 population), Chile (24.3), Spain (14.5), France (11.8), United Kingdom (17.8), Norway (10.9), Sweden (8.5), Iceland (9.9), Canada (10.7), and Portugal (15.5).

Osteoporosis Statistics

Meanwhile, the International Osteoporosis Foundation shared that osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures yearly, which results in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. Furthermore, about 200 million women worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Globally, one in three women and one in five men over 50 years old will experience osteoporotic fractures.

Osteoporosis takes both an economic and personal toll. The findings from the recent study are an eye-opener, particularly to low-income communities that are already suffering disproportionately from the effects of pollution and environmental waste. Aside from adopting an exercise program, eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium, and getting enough vitamin D, who would have thought that keeping the air cleaner can also help fortify people’s frames?