Could air pollution make you bald?
A new study from South Korea has suggested that prolonged exposure to poor air quality could have a detrimental impact on the human body’s ability to grow hair. By examining the effects of high concentrations of the pollutant PM10 (particulate matter 10) on hair follicles on the human scalp, the researchers were able to determine that it inhibited levels of protein vital to hair growth.
The report was compiled by scientists from the Future Science Research Centre in Seoul and presented at the 28th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress in Madrid last month. It demonstrates that as well as the unseen long-term effects of air pollution on the body, it can also have more immediate and noticeable consequences.Shining a light on the matter
The lead author on the paper, Hyuk Chul Kwon, said that he and his team had decided to focus on this area of investigation due to the relative dearth of available studies on the subject. Pollutants such as PM10 are notorious for the harmful impact they can have on the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems, but not so much for their effect on its outward appearance.
“While the link between air pollution and serious illnesses such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases are well established, there is little to no research on the effect of particular matter exposure on the human skin and hair, in particular,” he said. “Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on human follicle cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”Hair-raising results
By exposing human follicle dermal papilla cells (HFDPCs) to varying levels of PM10 and other diesel particulate pollution, Kwon and his team were able to conclude that the pollution reduced the presence of the protein β-catenin, which is chiefly responsible for hair growth. Meanwhile, three other proteins (cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2) which also contribute to a healthy head of hair were inhibited by exposure to the pollutant.
The results of the study also suggested that the relationship between air pollution and hair loss is dose-dependent. Simply put, this means that the higher the concentration of PM10 in the air and the longer the subject is exposed to it, the greater the effects of hair loss that can be expected.PM pollution
Particulate matter pollution is commonly emitted in the fumes of diesel vehicles, making it a key concern when monitoring air quality in cities and other urban environments. It is divided into two categories, PM10 and PM2.5, which signify the diameter of the particles in micrometres. Due to its microscopic size, most studies on PM focus on its ability to be inhaled and even infiltrate the bloodstream, investigating its effects on the body thereafter.
However, the new research reveals that PM pollution can impact public health in other ways, too. As one of the first of its kind, the study now requires other investigators to conduct similar research in order to corroborate its results and provide further insight into the link between air pollution and hair loss.