If you live in Delhi, or anywhere in north India really, you know just how bad air pollution can be for your health. From lung cancer and respiratory diseases to skin allergies–there are lots of consequences about breathing in toxic air. But here’s one that none of us saw coming: exposure to air pollution can apparently worsen bone health.
A study in India led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by ‘la Caixa’, recently established this link. The findings of the study were published in Jama Network Open.
The study analysed the relationship between air pollution to that of bone health, taking an account of 3,700 people from 28 villages outside the city of Hyderabad, in southern India.
A locally-developed model was used by the authors of the study to estimate the outdoor exposure at a residence to air pollution by fine particulate matter (suspended particles with a diameter of 2.5 mm or less) and black carbon.
A questionnaire was also filled by the participants on the type of fuel used for cooking.
The authors linked this information with bone health assessed using a special type of radiography that measures bone density, called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and measured bone mass at the lumbar spine and the left hip.
The results showed that exposure to ambient air pollution, particularly to fine particles, was associated with lower levels of bone mass. No correlation was found with the use of biomass fuel for cooking.
“This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health,” explains Otavio T. Ranzani, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study. Regarding the possible mechanisms underlying this association, he says “inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution”.
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What does this mean for us in Indians metros really?
Since fine particles are considered to be the culprits for poor bone mass, it becomes imperative for us to protect ourselves when the PM 2.5 menace is raging. So anti-pollution masks, staying indoors when the air quality is severe, and relying on air purifiers are our best bets. Better safe than sorry!