Air Pollution Adds to Bone Fragility

Air Pollution Adds to Bone Fragility

Air pollution is closely linked to bones. A new study shows that air pollution could make the bone more fragile, which leads to bone loss at a faster pace. 

Despite risk of osteoporosis rises with age, and it’s particularly common in post-menopausal women, the new study  published in eClinicalMedicine said that as pollution went up, bone mineral density went down across all areas of bone in the body – including the neck, spine, and hip.


The researchers analysed data on a diverse group of 9,041 post-menopausal women gathered over six years. They focussed mainly on bone mineral density: an indirect indicator of osteoporosis and fracture risk.

“Our findings confirm that poor air quality may be a risk factor for bone loss, independent of socio-economic or demographic factors,” says biomedical scientist Diddier Prada from Columbia University in New York.

Past studies have shown an association between worse air pollution and a higher risk of bone fractures, as well as greater bone loss over time. This research adds data on post menopausal women in particular, and on different air pollution mixes.


The researchers mainly looked at the link between nitrogen and spine. A jump of 10 percent of this kind of pollution over 3 years was associated with an average yearly loss of 1.22 percent in lumbar spine bone mineral density, twice the amount the team calculated from normal ageing.

According to the researchers, this is most likely due to bone cell death caused through mechanisms including oxidative stress, where toxic molecules from the environment cause damage to the body.

Prada said that they had evidence for the first time that nitrogen oxides, in particular, are a major contributor to bone damage, and that the lumbar spine is one of the most susceptible sites of this damage.


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