Air Pollution Might Have Caused Your Diabetes

New research from Washington University & the Veterans Affairs St. Health Care System links outdoor air pollution to an increased risk of diabetes globally.

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases, affecting more than 420 million people worldwide and 30 million Americans. The main drivers of diabetes include eating an unhealthy diet, having a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity, but the new research indicates the extent to which outdoor air pollution plays a role.

The researchers looked at particulate matter, airborne microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquid droplets in the polluted air. Previous studies have found that such particles can enter the lungs and invade the bloodstream, contributing to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and kidney disease. In diabetes, pollution is thought to reduce insulin production and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health.

In the United States, the study attributed 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year to air pollution and 350,000 years of healthy life lost annually.

In the U.S., the EPA’s pollution threshold is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the highest level of air pollution considered safe for the public, as set by the Clean Air Act of 1990 and updated in 2012. However, using mathematical models, at 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air there’s an increased diabetes risk . Based on VA data, among a sample of veterans exposed to pollution at a level of between 5 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 21 percent developed diabetes. When that exposure increases to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 24 percent of the group developed diabetes. A 3 percent difference appears small, but it represents an increase of 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people in a given year.

The findings raise the possibility that reducing pollution may lead to a drop in diabetes cases in heavily polluted countries such as India and less polluted ones such as the United States. 

 

 

 

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.