We often discuss how pollution is often discussed without addressing studies showing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year due to its health impacts. One of my greatest disagreements with the Trump Administration is its staunchly anti-environmental policies and its opposition to climate change reforms. Indeed, additional rollbacks on environmental protections are being pushed forward by the Administration. The connection between air pollution and death rates for lung cancer, stroke, asthma and other ailments is well established. Now a new study has linked it to the loss of bone density and strength.
The study published Friday by JAMA Network Open found a pronounced impact, particularly in fine particle pollution, on the levels of bone mass.
Co-author Otavio T. Ranzani, researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said that their study found that “inhalation of polluting particles could lead to bone mass loss through the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution.” One such ailment, osteoporosis, affects as many as 55 percent of Americans 50 years of age and older — or some 44 million people.
There has been much discussion of the failing life expectancy rates in the United States. The primary reasons identified by the CDC are (1) drug overdoses, (2) suicide, and (3) liver disease. However, there is a growing body of research that pollution, particularly air pollution, may have a less obvious and more extensive impact than previously thought. The deaths caused by air pollution are rarely attributed to pollution as a cause or contributor. For example, in this study, the impact is bone density loss. When someone dies from a fall, it is attributed to old age and an accident, not the deleterious impact of pollution on the body of the victim. The same is true for people who die from cancer and other causes.
I admit that I have been a long advocate of environmental protections. However, the failure to associate the loss of environmental protections to individual health remains one of the greatest challenges for the environmental and health communities. People still do not readily associate pollution with such personal health risks for themselves and their family members.
Here is the study: JAMA study