Losing your hair? Air pollution may be to blame

A new study has linked exposure to air pollution with hair loss.                                                                            Image: 123RF/makasanaphoto

New research has uncovered another negative effect of air pollution on our health, finding that exposure to common air pollutants could cause hair loss.

Carried out by researchers at the Future Science Research Centre in the Republic of Korea, the new study looked at whether air pollution is linked to hair loss by exposing cells taken from the base of hair follicles on the human scalp to various concentrations of particulate matter (PM), which is a mixture of solid particles and droplets found in the air.

The researchers exposed the cells to a type of PM known as PM10, which are particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or smaller.

PM10 is produced by burning fossil fuels, including petrol, diesel and solid fuels such as coal, oil and biomass, from car and other vehicle exhausts, power plants and industrial emissions.

Another source of PM10 is industrial activities such as building and mining and manufacturing building materials like cement, ceramics and bricks.

The findings, presented on Wednesday at the 28th EADV Congress in Madrid, showed for the first time that exposure to PM10 particulate appeared to decrease levels of β-catenin, the protein responsible for hair growth and morphogenesis, which is the development of hair follicles.

The researchers also found the exposure to PM10 was linked to reduced levels of three other proteins (cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2), which are responsible for hair growth and hair retention. This association was also found to be dose dependent, meaning that the greater the level of pollutant, the greater the decrease in proteins.

PM10 has already been linked to various serious health conditions such as heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory problems, however the effect of pollution on the skin and hair is not well known.

Lead researcher Hyuk Chul Kwon commented on the findings saying, “While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, COPD and CVD are well established, there is little to no research on the effect of particulate matter exposure on human skin and hair in particular. Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on human follicle dermal papilla cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”



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