Study: Outdoor air pollution increases risk of diabetes globally

American researchers recently warned that there is no such thing as safe levels of pollution. In an Integrative Practitioner article, their new study warns that even light levels of outdoor air pollution could increase the chances of contracting diabetes.

At the same time, they believe that the number of diabetes cases in heavily-polluted countries such as China and India could be reduced if the pollution levels are brought down. This also applies to the less polluted countries like the United States.

There are many factors that lead to the onset of diabetes. However, a joint study between researchers of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WashUMed St. Louis) and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System found that outdoor air pollutant is also a cause for the disease.

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” said WashUMed St. Louis researcher Ziyad Al-Aly, the primary author of the study. “We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).” (Related: Air pollution found to disrupt hormone cycles in teenage girls.)

A link between outdoor air pollution and diabetes

The WashUMed St. Louis researchers looked up the data of 1.7 million veterans who were followed for an average of 8.5 years. None of the patients have histories of diabetes. This data was correlated with both land-based air quality monitoring systems and orbiting satellites.

Different statistical models were used to analyze the results. The data was also tested against controls that were not linked to diabetes or to outdoor air pollution, as well as to controls that were indeed connected to air pollution.

After testing their results, the researchers created a model to analyze the risk of diabetes caused by different levels of air pollution. They built this by going through earlier studies on both diabetes and outdoor air pollution.

They wrapped up their experiment by evaluating the Global Burden of Disease study. The information from this yearly research could tell them how many cases of diabetes stemmed from air pollution. It also helped them calculate the cost of pollution in terms of healthy years of living.

The lower the air quality, the higher the chances of developing diabetes

In addition to discovering the link between diabetes and air pollution, the WashUMed St. Louis researchers reported that the overall risk is higher in countries that cannot afford clean-air policies and environmental clean-ups. So poorer countries in Asia and Africa have higher numbers of diabetes cases, while richer countries enjoy lower risks.

The United States occupies the middle of the road when it comes to diabetes risk from air pollution. The Clean Air Act set the maximum level of air pollution to 12 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air.

However, the new study showed that the risk of diabetes will already increase at a mere 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air. And running the VA data through the model showed that five to 10 micrograms of air pollution were enough to cause diabetes in 21 percent of the participants.

The diabetes risk percentage rose to 24 percent when the particulate matter increased to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms. That three percent is equivalent to 6,000 new cases in every 100,000 people every year.

Back in 2017, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health urged further research on the negative effects of air pollution. It specifically cited the possible link between pollution and diabetes, which the WashUMed team have finally confirmed. can keep you informed on the best ways to avoid and amend diabetes.

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