Medical Research Study Links Air Pollution To Diabetes, Effects Are Global

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Growing evidence suggesting a link between air pollution and diabetes has not been quantified until now. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis collaborated with those at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare System to study the effects of air pollutants. Their aim was to discover if a link between high pollution levels and diabetes existed.

Results from this study were shocking. Not only did scientists find that a there is, in fact, a relationship between air pollution and the global issue of diabetes, these findings also cite pollution levels deemed safe are also at fault. What’s more, such a determination suggests that by decreasing air pollution, humankind could potentially see a drop in diabetes cases; especially in locations with extremely higher levels of pollution, such as India, says Medical Express.

Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University, served as the study’s senior author. The researchers’ discovery was published in The Lancet Planetary Health on June 29, 2018.

“Over the past two decades, there have been bits of research about diabetes and pollution. We wanted to thread together the pieces for a broader, more solid understanding.”

Pollutants that the researchers examined included particulate matter such as smoke, soot, dirt, liquid droplets, and airborne microscopic pieces of dust. These particles invade our bloodstream by entering the lungs. Health concerns and diseases, including morbidity-contributing illnesses such as heart and kidney disease, stroke, and cancer, have also been linked to these levels of air pollution. How these levels effect diabetes is stated to trigger inflammation and reduce insulin production, which prevents the body from doing its job to maintain health by converting blood glucose into energy.

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The Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant is seen in the early morning hours March 28, 2011 in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Featured image credit: Jeff FuscoGetty Images

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally. We found an increased risk, even at lower levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and should be tightened.”

In 2016, the scientists estimated that 3.2 million diabetes cases were linked to contributing air pollution. That figure represents 14 percent of all new diabetes cases in 2016. The numbers are considered alarming to researchers, who also evaluated the matter further to find that 8.2 million disability-adjusted life years were lost in that same year due to pollution linked diabetes. This study attributed that 150,000 new cases a year are linked to air pollution. That ads up to 350,000 years of healthy life lost annually.

The EPA pollution threshold in the United States is 12 micro-grams per cubic meter, cites the researchers; a figure that maxes out what is supposedly considered safe. These scientists beg to differ. For more readings on this study, check out the report on The Lancet.