Air Pollution is a Risk Factor for Diabetes- Research Explains

The recent study investigated the harmful effects of polluted air on human health. It revealed that there is a significant correlation between diabetes and air pollution levels. This research is important to predict the guideline for health management.

For long, diabetes has been linked with environmental effects particularly air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that air pollution can lead to lungs cancer, respiratory diseases, stroke and other heart problems.

Air pollution is an international environmental problem but these days, even the low-income cities are affected by it. The data from air quality database (2008) tells that approximately 80% of people living in urban areas are breathing into the air that doesn’t match with standard WHO guidelines.

As you already know, diabetes is a condition when the body’s natural capacity of producing insulin is reduced. It results in high sugar level in the bloodstream. Diabetes is treatable but most of the times it is not treated 100%. Any complication in diabetes may result in kidney failure, heart problems etc.

What was this experiment about?

This research was conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO with a collaboration of Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri. The scientists found that diabetes is pollution is interlinked.

This study is particularly important to evaluate the harmful effects of poor quality of air on human health. The research findings have been published in The Lancet Planetary Health. You can read them online.

In this experiment, a team of scientists analyzed the effect of pollution on a sample population of United States veterans with no past history of diabetes. The participants in this study were followed for over 8 years. The scientists used a number of models as parameters in this study.

They also studied some additional variables, which are not directly associated with diabetes or air pollution. It was necessary to eliminate the chances of measuring a false relationship.

On the basis of observations, the researchers told that air pollution has contributed to more than 3.2 million cases of diabetes worldwide. It has also caused 8.2 million years loss of healthy life only in the year 2016. It makes more or less 14% of all years of healthy life lost because of diabetes.

This research is important as it characterizes air pollution as a risk for diabetes globally. An increase even at the low level of air pollution is also linked with an unhealthy condition. The current standards are believed to be stringent but the thing is that as per evidence, the current levels are still not safe for health and need to be readdressed.

How is diabetes related to air pollution?

The mechanism that causes diabetes due to the air pollution is not clearly understood. However, the scientists believe that some pollutants from the air may enter the bloodstream and interact with the body’s tissues and organs. This interaction may damage the body and vital organs, causing insulin sensitivity and production.

There is one important thing that the risk of pollution-related diabetes is higher in lower-income countries. These countries lack any air policies and they include India, China, and Indonesia. On the other side, some of the wealthy countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, have a much lower risk.

The study results suggest that the risk of diabetes increases on the lowest possible exposure levels and the EPA guidelines set for quality standards for air.

You can also say that standards that are officially considered “safe,” are still having a huge health risk. Last year, the Lancet Commission on pollution and health published a detailed report on the damages of pollution on health. You can view it online too.

In light of all this information, this new study aims to find new evidence and reveal that pollution has a huge impact on health that may possibly lead to the development of diabetes.


  • https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32345-0/fulltext
  • https://www.epa.gov/criteria-air-pollutants/naaqs-table
  • http://www.who.int/airpollution/data/cities/en/
  • http://www.who.int/airpollution/ambient/health-impacts/en/


Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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