Pollution may cause baldness: study
Scientists suggest exercising indoors
LONDON • Air pollution may cause baldness, scientists have shown for the first time.
A study found that fine particulate matter emitted by cars damaged the skin that holds hair follicles in place.
A series of laboratory tests on human cells showed levels of the crucial proteins needed for hair to grow and be retained decreased the more they were exposed to pollution particles.
While there is a growing body of evidence to show how these tiny particles can damage internal health, including by entering the bloodstream through the lungs, it is the first to demonstrate such a risk to the surface of the body.
Researchers said exercising indoors rather than in polluted cities could be a way to reduce hair loss.
The study was conducted by exposing human follicle dermal papilla cells (HFDPCs) to various concentrations of PM10-like — particulate 10 micrometres or less in diameter — dust and diesel particulate. After 24 hours, the researchers performed a process, known as western blotting, to detect the levels of specific proteins in the cells.
The results showed that the presence of PM10 and diesel particulate decreased levels of Beta-catenin, a protein responsible for hair growth.
They also revealed the levels of three other proteins — cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2 — responsible for hair growth and hair retention, were decreased by PM10-like dust and diesel particulate in a “dose-dependent” manner.
Dr. Hyuk Chul Kwon, who led the study at the Future Science Research Centre, South Korea, said: “While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease are well established, there is little to no research on the effect of particulate matter exposure on the 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.”
Recent research in China found men in their 20s were going bald sooner than previous generations. Although balding is typically associated with aging, an increasing number of millennials in the U.S. say they are experiencing hair loss.
Two-thirds of all men will eventually be affected.
Genetic factors remain the most influential known cause of baldness.
Particulate matter sources include burning fossil fuels — including gas, diesel and other solid fuels such as coal, oil and biomass — as well as industrial activities such as building, mining and manufacturing.
“While it is difficult to escape ambient pollution, limiting time walking on busy streets, especially during rush hour, should help to reduce exposure,” Kwon said. “If you are exercising outdoors, try to do so in areas that are less polluted and do not spend too much time waiting at traffic hot spots such as traffic lights.”
The study is being presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress, Madrid.
Comedian Larry David is among the two-thirds of men affected by baldness.