Researchers have found that living in polluted cities may cause the bones to be weaker and easier to break.
The researchers also found that city-dwellers exposed to toxic air have weaker hips and spines and are more prone to fractures
The Spanish researchers believe that bones are weakened because tiny pollutants seep into the blood when inhaled and speed up the ageing process.
A study carried out India of nearly 4,000 people found that those exposed to toxic particles had less bone density in their lower back and those who inhaled more toxic airborne particles had less bone mass in their spines and hips.
Meanwhile, previous studies have linked pollution to low levels of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium production, leading to more fragile bones.
Researchers found that smog-filled towns and cities have been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory diseases such as asthma and even dementia.
Although, there have only been a few studies into the effect of toxic airborne particles on bone health, the results have so far been inconclusive.
Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in their latest paper, looked at 3,700 people who were all residents from 28 villages outside the city of Hyderabad in southern India between 2009 and 2012.
The researchers took measurements of PM2.5 and black carbon in the atmosphere in each village.
PM2.5 is the finest type of particulate matter, while black carbon is a larger toxin. Both come mainly from petrol and diesel vehicle exhausts.
Their analysis revealed average PM2.5 exposure was 33 micrograms per metre cubed (ug/m3) – far above the maximum 10ug/m3 levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.
By comparison, the average level is 13ug/m3 in London, 12ug/m3 in New York and 10ug/m3 in Sydney.
The researchers also cross-referenced pollution levels with X-rays measuring bone mass in participants’ lower back, known as the lumbar spine, and hip.
The results showed that exposure to air pollution was associated with lower levels of bone mass.
For every 3ug/m3 increase in fine particulate matter, there was a decrease of -0.57g of bone mass in the spine and -0.13g in the hip, while an increase of 1ug/m3 of carbon saw bone density shrink by -1.13g in the spine and -0.35g in the hip.
The study lead author, Otavio Ranzani said: “This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health.
“Inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution.’ The findings were published in the journal Jama Network Open.
However, a 2017 study by Columbia University of more than nine million people was the first to find a link between traffic fumes and fractures caused by osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.
The study linked pollution exposure to low levels of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium production, leading to weaker bones and more hospitalisations for fractures.
The study found hospital admissions for bone fractures were higher in communities with elevated levels of PM2.5, as more than 80 per cent of the world’s urban population is breathing unsafe levels of air pollution.
Described as an invisible killer, it causes an estimated seven million premature deaths yearly worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, health experts fear that pollution is also fuelling increases in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Previous studies found that air pollution has a negative impact on students’ cognitive abilities.
Many pollutants are thought to directly affect brain chemistry in a variety of ways.
For instance, particulate matter from traffic and industry can carry toxins through small passageways and directly enter the brain.
Culled from www.dailymail.co.uk