Air pollution is deadly. Studies have found that fine particulate matter, such as airborne pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot, and other microscopic particles can enter our lungs and bloodstream, contributing to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and kidney disease.
According to new research from the Washington University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, air pollution – even at levels deemed safe – is also linked to an increased risk of diabetes. These findings, which were recently published in The Lancet Planetary Health, suggest that reducing air pollution could result in a decrease in diabetes cases.
More than 30 million Americans and 420 million people globally have diabetes. It’s one of the fastest growing diseases. Eating an unhealthy diet, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity are some of the main drivers of diabetes, but this new research indicates that polluted air is also playing a role.
In diabetes, air pollution is thought to reduce insulin protection and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health.
Researchers estimated that air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016. The risk of pollution-linked diabetes was greater in lower-income countries. For instance, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana face a high diabetes-pollution risk, while wealthier countries like France, Finland and Iceland experience a lower risk. (The U.S. has a moderate risk of pollution-related diabetes).
While many industry groups lobby to get current environmental regulations relaxed, the scientific evidence indicates that the standards deemed safe by the EPA and the World Health Organization may actually not go far enough.
Air pollution contributes significantly to diabetes globally
Photo, posted August 25, 2006, courtesy of Ian Dick via Flickr.
‘Air Pollution and Diabetes’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
I was wondering is anybody has done a study regarding traffic lights and pollution?
We are going to do some digging on this. We have tackled a related topic in the past: https://earthwiseradio.org/podcast/safer-places-for-bus-riders/ Thanks for listening!
Lorraine Farina says
Thanks for bringing this important public health news to light. It reinforces the urgency of educating people about the hazards (both to health and to the environment) posed by woodsmoke pollution. Woodburning has been also been linked to sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, SIDS, DNA damage, dementia, well as lung disease, and JAMA published a recent study recommending, as you have, that EPA “safe” thresholds be raised, as some 20,000 more annual deaths from PM 2.5 (a main component of woodsmoke, in large volumes) are attributable to this pollution than previuosly thought. Your work is very important for the health of the planet and for human health.