Health condition affecting older Aussies linked to air pollution

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As smoke from bushfires shrouds our cities, scientists have made a worrying discovery.

While some of the effects of air pollution, such as lung cancer, stroke and respiratory diseases are well known, a new study has found an association between exposure to air pollution and poor bone health.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of the bone is reduced. Globally, it is responsible for a substantial burden of disease and its prevalence is expected to increase due to ageing populations.

The new study, which was conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, analysed the association between air pollution and bone health in more than 3700 people from 28 villages outside the city of Hyderabad, in southern India.

The authors used a locally developed model to estimate outdoor exposure at residence to air pollution by fine particulate matter and black carbon.

The participants also filled out a questionnaire on the type of fuel used for cooking.

The authors linked this information with bone health by 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 use of biomass fuel for cooking.

“This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health,” explains ISGlobal researcher Otavio Ranzani.

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”.

“Our findings add to a growing body of evidence that indicates particulate air pollution is relevant for bone health across a wide range of air pollution levels, including levels found in high income and low- and medium-income countries,” says Cathryn Tonne, coordinator of the study.

Have you been struggling with the air quality in your area? Are you worried about the long-term health effects of inhaling bushfire smoke?

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