A new possible link between outdoor air pollution, even at deemed safe levels, and diabetes. This study suggests that lowering air pollution in heavily polluted countries and less polluted may also drop the diabetes rate. The most common causes of diabetes are an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and obesity, but now air pollution is proposed to also have a leading hand in causing diabetes. This disease affects more than 420 million people worldwide and 30 million of those are in the Americans. As lobbying groups urge governments to loosen on regulations, this is worrisome as even low levels that qualify as “safe” under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) still have a link between pollution and diabetes.
Researchers looked at particulate matter like airborne microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot, and liquid droplets to evaluate outdoor air pollution. Other studies have mentioned a connection between these particles and invasion of the lungs and bloodstream. Washington University collaborated with scientists in at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Center to examine the relationship between particulate matter and the risk of diabetes. They followed 1.7 million U.S. veterans that did not have a history with diabetes for an average of 8.5 years. They linked the EPA’s land-based air monitoring systems and their space satellites with the patient data. Statistical models were used to test the validity against controls such as ambient air sodium concentration (they have no link to diabetes), low limb fractures (they show no link to outdoor pollution), and the risk of developing diabetes (has a strong link to air pollution). With this data, the team examined the link to diabetes and outdoor air pollution. Then they created a model to evaluate diabetes risk across the pollution levels. Lastly, the team looked at the data from the Global Burden of Disease studies. It was used to estimate the annual cases of diabetes and healthy years life lost due to pollution.
The highest level of air pollution set by the EPA’s Clean Air Act of 1990 is set at 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The team’s saw an increase of diabetes risk at 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Veterans exposed to pollution between the levels of 5 to 10 micrograms, 21 percent developed diabetes, and those exposed to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms about 24 percent of the group develop diabetes. The lower-income countries that do not have the resources for environmental mitigation systems and clean-air policies such as India were more impacted by pollution-related diabetes than those that had the resources.