High Air Pollution Increases One’s Risk of Fractures from Osteoporosis

Every year, there are two million osteoporotic bone fractures in the USA, incurring an annual health cost of $20 billion. A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal says that people living in areas with high air pollution are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis – related bone fractures.

A study was carried out by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health for an eight – year period (from January 2003 to December 2010) on more than nine million osteoporosis-related fracture patients from Northeast/Mid-Atlantic admitted to hospital.

They found an association between exposure to air pollution and the risk of osteoporotic fractures. Even with a little elevation in ambient particulate matter there was a higher linked rate of hospital admissions for osteoporosis-related bone fractures.

Osteoporosis is a condition where there is a decrease in bone density and quality due to its inability to produce bone as rapidly as it is lost. This makes your bone weak, fragile, brittle and prone to breaking. Osteoporosis can be a result of aging or due to disorders like multiple sclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

Often fractures in elderly are caused due to osteoporosis. This not only puts an end to their independent living, but also increases their risk of death by some 20%.

The research further found that, in comparison with patients from low-pollution areas, those from areas of higher levels of black carbon and particulate matter had lower levels of parathyroid hormone, a hormone involved in regulating blood calcium levels and bone remodeling, thus resulting in a lower bone mineral density.

Further, there is a likelihood of particulate matter to speed up bone loss and increase bone fracture risk in the elderly, owing to its ability to cause systemic oxidative damage and inflammation. Studies have shown that smoking, which has many particulate matter, is associated with bone damage.

Past researches have documented many health risks such as respiratory diseases, impaired cognition, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases associated with air pollution. The current research adds osteoporosis to it, and thus expands the list of health risks of air pollution a little further, says Andrea Baccarelli, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School.

This study is a big warning to every one of us as it tells us that our body is more complex than we have realized and that we actually don’t know what breathing rubbish is doing to our body. While we think that bone do nothing more than keeping our bodies erect, they are necessarily more complex and metabolically active, and air pollutants certainly interfere in its complex processes. Not doing something about the global increase in air pollution can lead to a big health damage.

Breathing clean air, as suggested by this research, results in improved bone health – a way to prevent bone fractures. Thus, the best method to prevent air-pollution linked diseases is to come up with hard policies to improve air quality.

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