Elevated levels of air pollutants are associated with bone damage among postmenopausal women, according to new research. The effects were most evident on the lumbar spine.
This is the first study, which examined the effects of air pollutants on bones and the relationship between air pollutants and bone density among postmenopausal women.
Approximately 2.1 million osteoporosis-related bone fractures occur annually, resulting in up to $20.3 billion in annual direct health costs. Osteoporosis impacts women more than men, with 80 percent of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis being women.
Postmenopausal women are at higher risk, with one in two women over 50 experiencing a bone fracture because of osteoporosis.
The researchers analyzed data of 161,808 postmenopausal women.
The researchers estimated air pollution exposures based on participants’ home addresses. They measured bone mineral density at enrollment as well as at follow-up at year one, year three, and year six.
The findings confirmed that poor air quality may be a risk factor for bone loss, independent of socioeconomic or demographic factors. For the first time, the study provide evidence 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.
Improvements in air pollution exposure, particularly nitrogen oxides, will reduce bone damage in postmenopausal women, prevent bone fractures, and reduce the health cost burden associated with osteoporosis among postmenopausal women.