Chilling to the bone

by January 7, 2020 0 comments

A recent study shows how elevated levels of PM 2.5 emitted by cars lead to osteoporosis

Who would have thought that the car you drive would be your worst enemy? A recent study by Jama Network Open has found an intriguing link between long-term exposure to toxic particles emitted by vehicles and osteoporosis, a condition where one’s bones become weaker. What is worrying for most Delhiites is that this study was conducted in and around Hyderabad, which has a far lower vehicular density compared to the Capital. The offensive particles, mostly PM 2.5 and black carbon, lead to the degeneration of bone mass in the spine and hips. At the time of writing, the PM 2.5 level in Delhi was in the severe range of 154. At this rate, we may have an entire generation with bone problems and fitness challenges.

Though this may not be a first of its kind finding — already in 2017, a Lancet Planetary Health study had established the link between exposure to air pollution and osteoporosis-related loss of bone mineral density and risk of bone fractures — it does establish a potential health threat. With around 200 million people affected by osteoporosis worldwide, an estimated 50 million of them are Indians. With a rapidly ageing population, its prevalence will only increase. By this year, the country is estimated to record six lakh hip fractures. Numbers are expected to jump to a million by 2050. The news, though alarming, is unlikely to bring change right away simply because earlier studies on pollution threats to our health have not translated into corrective policies. Our battle against ambient air pollution is not new but even after years of planning and execution, it has got caught in politics of shifting blames rather than being implemented in mission mode. Indians anyway rank poorly in terms of maintaining their levels of Vitamin D and calcium, which are the most basic nutrients for bone health. These are required in our growing years when maximum mass formation happens. But what do you do when children are born with a deficiency? Another report had earlier pointed out how pregnant women are more likely to give birth to underweight children when they are exposed to air pollution, which is proven to affect neuro development in children and weaken them enough to develop chronic diseases and cardio-vascular conditions later on in life. Do we compromise the health of a generation or really rethink the way we use vehicles?

(Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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