Bad break: Osteoporosis-related bone fractures linked to air pollution

November 10, 2017, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Exposure to air pollution is associated with osteoporosis-related loss of bone mineral density and risk of bone fractures, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Their findings are published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

The researchers are the first to document high rates of hospital admissions for in communities with elevated levels of ambient (PM2.5), a component of air pollution, with risk of bone fracture admissions greatest in low-income communities. The findings, from a study of osteoporosis-related fracture hospital admissions among 9.2 million Medicare enrollees in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic between 2003-2010, suggest that even a small increase in PM2.5 concentrations would lead to an increase in bone fractures in older adults.

A concurrent analysis of eight years of follow-up among 692 middle-aged, low-income adults in the Boston Area Community Health/Bone Survey cohort found that participants living in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 and black carbon, a component of air pollution from automotive emissions, had lower levels of parathyroid hormone, a key calcium and bone-related hormone, and greater decreases in than those exposed to lower levels of these pollutants.

Osteoporosis, the most common reason for a broken bone among the elderly, is a disease in which bones become brittle and weak as the body loses more than it can rebuild. There are an estimated 2 million osteoporosis-related bone fractures in the U.S. each year, resulting in as much as $20 billion in annual direct health costs. Typically, no symptoms are present prior to a break, which often happens spontaneously or from something as harmless as a hug. In the year after an older adult has a bone fracture, risk for death increases by as much as 20 percent, and only 40 percent of those who had fractures regain their independence.

The researchers write that particulate matter, including PM2.5, is known to cause systemic oxidative damage and inflammation, which they suggest, could accelerate bone loss and increase risk of bone fractures in older individuals. Smoking, which contains several particulate matter components, has been consistently associated with .

"Decades of careful research has documented the health risks of air pollution, from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, to cancer, and impaired cognition, and now osteoporosis," says Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School and the study's senior author. "Among the many benefits of clean air, our research suggests, are improved and a way to prevent bone fractures."

In two studies published earlier this year, Baccarelli, a world leader in the science of epigenetics, reported that Vitamin B can diminish the effects of air pollution-induced cardiovascular disease, as well as epigenetic damage to DNA. It is unclear if the benefits of Vitamin B extend to . Even so, he says, the best way to prevent -related diseases is through policies to improve air quality.

Explore further: Blood marker may predict postmenopausal women's risk of bone fractures

Related Stories

Blood marker may predict postmenopausal women's risk of bone fractures

August 16, 2017
In a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, blood tests that detect fragments of a protein secreted by bone cells helped to predict fracture risk in postmenopausal women, independently of bone mineral ...

Bone strength + bone mineral density screening cost-effective

October 29, 2017
(HealthDay)—Combined assessment of bone strength and bone mineral density is a cost-effective strategy for osteoporosis screening in postmenopausal women, according to a study published in the November issue of Radiology.

Obesity may be a factor for fractures

October 20, 2017
Does body fat protect you against osteoporosis or make you more vulnerable to fractures? A new study by the University of South Australia hopes to shed light on this question.

Seniors with Type 2 diabetes may have increased risk for fracture

September 20, 2017
Though seniors with type 2 diabetes (T2D) tend to have normal or higher bone density than their peers, researchers have found that they are more likely to succumb to fractures than seniors without T2D. In a new study published ...

Specific long-term therapy may not prevent fractures in older women

June 2, 2017
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thinning of the bones, loss of bone density, and increasingly fragile bones. This puts people at higher risk for bone fractures. Risk for the disease increases as we age. In fact, 50% ...

Assessment of bone density and fracture history can predict long-term fracture risk

June 21, 2017
Factors such as low bone density and previous fractures are commonly used to predict an individual's risk of experiencing a fracture over the next 10 years. A new analysis has found that a single bone density measurement ...

Recommended for you

A multimodal intervention to reduce one of the most common healthcare-acquired infections

March 16, 2018
Surgical site infections are the most frequent health care-associated infections in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of infection can affect up to one-third of surgical patients ...

New imaging approach offers unprecedented views of staph infection

March 14, 2018
Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, marvels at the images on his computer screen—3-D molecular-level views of infection in a mouse. "I'm pretty convinced that these are the most advanced images in infection biology," said Skaar, Ernest ...

Parasitic worms need their intestinal microflora too

March 14, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have cast new light on a little understood group of worm infections, which collectively afflicts 1 in 4 people, mainly children—in the developing the world.

Compound scores key win in battle against antibiotic resistance

March 14, 2018
Researchers at Oregon State University have made a key advance in the fight against drug resistance, crafting a compound that genetically neutralizes a widespread bacterial pathogen's ability to thwart antibiotics.

Helicobacter creates immune system blind spot

March 13, 2018
The gastric bacterium H. pylori colonizes the stomachs of around half the human population and can lead to the development of gastric cancer. It is usually acquired in childhood and persists life-long, despite a strong inflammatory ...

Taking the jab (and the chill) out of vaccination

March 13, 2018
Scientists in Cairns (Australia) and Cardiff (Wales) have taken an important first step towards solving two problems that hinder access to vaccines: they need to be kept cool, and no one likes needles.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.