Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggest that exposure to air pollution could be associated with osteoporosis-related loss of bone mineral density and risk of bone fractures.

Their findings, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, shine the spotlight on ambient particulate matter (PM2.5)—a component of air pollution—as a factor in what may be causing the bone fractures.

In their study, the researchers document high rates of hospital admissions for bone fractures in communities with elevated levels of PM2.5, with risk of bone fracture admissions greatest in low-income communities. The findings, from a study of osteoporosis-related fracture hospital admissions among 9.2 million Medicare enrollees in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic between 2003-2010, suggest that even a small increase in PM2.5 concentrations would lead to an increase in bone fractures in older adults, explains a media release from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

A concurrent analysis of 8 years of follow-up among 692 middle-aged, low-income adults in the Boston Area Community Health/Bone Survey cohort found that participants living in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 and black carbon, a component of air pollution from automotive emissions, had lower levels of parathyroid hormone, a key calcium and bone-related hormone, and greater decreases in bone mineral density than those exposed to lower levels of these pollutants.

Particulate matter, including PM2.5, is known to cause systemic oxidative damage and inflammation, which they suggest, could accelerate bone loss and increase risk of bone fractures in older individuals, they write, per the release.

“Decades of careful research has documented the health risks of air pollution, from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, to cancer, and impaired cognition, and now osteoporosis,” says Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School and the study’s senior author, in the release. “Among the many benefits of clean air, our research suggests, are improved bone health and a way to prevent bone fractures.”

[Source(s): Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Science Daily]