Diabetes Risk Tied to Air Pollution

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">Air pollution is, again, being linked to disease, this time diabetes, said WebMD, which noted that auto exhaust and industrial smoke were among the fine particulate pollutants involved.

It seems that residents in locations in which air quality levels were below, but close to, acceptable safety limits set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), experienced a 20 percent increased incident of being diagnosed with diabetes versus those exposed to few pollutants, said WebMD. Even after factoring known diabetes risks—obesity, race, sedentary living—the strong link existed, wrote WebMD.

Although the study does not definitively link air pollution exposure to diabetes, it does represent the first, large, national study to review the potential connection, noted WebMD. “We know exposure to air pollution is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said John Brownstein, PhD, of the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, quoted WebMD. “This is just one more piece of evidence that pollution impacts health,” Brownstein added. In studies, chronic inflammation has been linked to insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes; chemicals “found in air pollution have been linked to inflammation,” said WebMD.

American Diabetes Association Vice President of Medicine and Science Vivian Fonseca, MD, said this could add credence to the notion that exposure to chemicals could increase one’s risk for diabetes, said WebMD.

Brownstein and his teamed took EPA data, by county, on fine particulate air pollution, combining it with nationwide diabetes levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) from 2004 through 2005, explained WebMD. Some data were derived from the CDC and the US Census Bureau. Connections were seen between obesity rates and diabetes, not unexpectedly, noted WebMD.

The research also indicated what WebMD described as a “strong and consistent” link between diabetes and air pollution. The study appears in the October issue of Diabetes Care. “The most disturbing thing was that this was seen even in areas where pollution levels were considered acceptable by the EPA,” said study co-researcher Allison B. Goldfine, MD, of Harvard Medical School’s Joslin Diabetes Center, quoted Web MD.

Many veterans exposed to the chemical dioxin through Agent Orange during the Vietnam War now allege the chemical exposure caused their diabetes, said WebMD. As a matter-of-fact, in 2000, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) added type 2 diabetes to its list of so-called “presumptive” diseases linked to Agent Orange.

Recently, another study pointed to links, specifically to “autoimmune diseases, infections, and genetics” being directly connected to the environment, with the diseases appearing to be sparked by environmental pollutants such as second-hand cigarette smoke, chemicals in food or the air, jet fuel fumes, and UV exposure. Some densely industrial areas saw higher incidences of autoimmune diseases.

We previously wrote that a review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in 2008 concluded that short-term exposure to smog—or ozone—is definitively linked to premature deaths; a prior panel, which also studied these effects said that “studies have yielded strong evidence that short-term exposure to ozone can exacerbate lung conditions, causing illness and hospitalization, and can potentially lead to death.” Another study on which we reported indicated that early exposure to air pollutants was linked to lung disease in later life.

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