Pollution Can Accelerate Bone Loss through Osteoporosis in Postmenopausal Women

Postmenopausal women living in highly polluted areas are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis. The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health conducted a study that focused on establishing a link between bone health in women past the menopausal stage. Although previous studies have been done on air pollution and osteoporosis, it was the first to explore how air pollution affects bone mineral density in women past the menopausal stage.


The study involved over 161,000 postmenopausal women, with their data gathered from a study called the Women’s Health Initiative. Details about the women’s addresses helped provide information on exposure to air pollution – specifically nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and PM10 (particulate matter). Researchers also took BMD (bone mineral density) measurements with the aid of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Measurements were taken upon enrolment and several times over a period of six years.


Nitrogen oxides (a combination of NO and NO2 gases) severely impacted the lumbar spine, with annual reductions identified at 1.22%. Researchers pointed out that the effects may have been due to oxidative damage that further led to the death of the bone cell.


The study is the first to provide proof that nitrogen oxides, also known as NOx, are a significant cause of bone damage. It also singles out the lumbar spine as the most vulnerable and affected.


Columbia Mailman School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences’ associate research scientist and first author of the study, Dr. Diddier Prada, stressed the importance of their findings, saying that it is evidence that the poor quality of air can increase the risk of bone loss. This can happen regardless of demographic or socioeconomic factors.


The study is also an indication that countries and their governments need to create and implement stricter policies and programs for reducing air pollution and improving air quality.


Lead author Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD also shared professional opinion and specifically talked about how exposure to NOx should be properly addressed as it is the only way bone fractures, osteoporosis, and other cases of bone damage in postmenopausal women can be reduced or prevented.


Direct health costs are also affected by the rise of osteoporosis or bone health-related cases in older women. Annual expenses are estimated at around $20.3 billion (or over £16.56 billion). Every year, around 2.1 million cases of osteoporosis-related bone damage are recorded.


Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men. In the United States, there are around 10 million cases of osteoporosis; 80% of these are among women. For women in the postmenopausal stage, the risk is higher.


The most common source of nitrogen oxides is road transport, particularly diesel-powered vehicles.


Why has diesel become unpopular?


Diesel vehicles used to be the preferred option of most carmakers and car owners. Back then, automobile industry insiders believed diesel to be friendlier to the environment compared to petrol and other varieties. Then the Dieselgate scandal happened.


The diesel emissions scandal took place in September 2015, initially involving only the Volkswagen Group. Volkswagen was accused of fitting several models of Audi and VW diesel vehicles with defeat devices that are programmed to illegally reduce emissions during regulatory testing. US authorities immediately ordered VW to recall the hundreds of thousands of affected vehicles. The carmaker also had to pay hefty fines and fees.


After Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and its parent company Daimler took the spotlight. Mercedes suffered the same fate as VW after US authorities allegedly discovered the cheat software in several Mercedes models. Since then, thousands of affected Mercedes-Benzes have been recalled for correction and the carmaker has paid billions in fines and fees and has even settled with some affected drivers.


Other carmakers that allegedly used defeat devices include BMW, Vauxhall, Renault, and Land Rover.


A defeat device senses when a vehicle’s emission levels are being evaluated. When this happens, the device reduces emissions to within the World Health Organization-mandated levels. When regulators test (or examine) the vehicle, they’ll see an emissions-compliant vehicle.


This is deceptive, however, as the vehicle emits unlawfully high levels of NOx once it is brought out of testing for real-world driving. As a result, the vehicle releases a toxic gas that harms the environment and endangers lives.


NOx impacts


NOx damages vegetation, produces ground-level ozone, and contributes to the formation of acid rain and smog.


Nitrogen oxide’s health impacts can be life-threatening:


  • Dementia
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health-related issues
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory diseases, which can lead to COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Pulmonary oedema (fluid fills up the lungs)
  • Certain cancers
  • Asphyxiation
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Premature/Early death


Carmakers that allowed high-polluting vehicles on the road are responsible for exposing their customers to dangerous NOx emissions. This is more than enough reason to file a diesel claim and receive compensation.


My diesel claim – Where do I begin?


Not all diesel vehicle models are affected by defeat devices. However, if you have reason to believe that your car has been compromised, you’ll have to visit ClaimExperts.co.uk. It’s where all the information you need to verify your eligibility and start your diesel claim can be found. Work with an emissions expert to increase your chances of getting compensation.