Pollution may be one factor in the onset of baldness, says a new study from researchers at the University of London. Genetic factors are believed to play the largest role in bringing about baldness, but men who live in heavily polluted areas may experience hair loss sooner or more dramatically than those in less polluted locales. The researchers found that carcinogens and other chemicals in the air appear to be able to stop hair from growing by blocking mechanisms that produce the protein hair is made from. “We think any pollutant that can get into the bloodstream or into the skin and into the hair follicle could cause some stress to it and impair the ability of the hair to make a fiber,” said Mike Philpott of the University of London’s school of medicine. “There are a whole host of carcinogens and toxins in the environment that could trigger this.” Next up for study: Could bald heads really be solar panels for love machines?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.