Quantcast
Health
The Seattle skyline on Oct. 27, 2015. Seattle ranks high in short-term particle pollution. SounderBruce / CC BY-SA 2.0

Air Pollution Increases Diabetes Risk at Levels EPA Calls 'Safe,' Study Finds

A major study published Friday in The Lancet Planetary Health has confirmed a reported link between air pollution and diabetes in a big way, finding that particulate matter exposure can increase risk for the disease even at levels currently deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization, CNN reported.


"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 need to be tightened," study lead author and Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis assistant professor Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly said in a Washington University press release.

The study found that air pollution caused 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016, 14 percent of the year's total cases, and causes 150,000 new cases in the U.S. every year.

Pollution-linked diabetes was also the cause of 8.2 million years of healthy life lost globally in 2016, 14 percent of the total number of healthy years lost due to diabetes that year. In the U.S., 350,000 years of healthy life are lost a year.

"This is a very well-done report, very believable, and fits well with this emerging knowledge about the impacts of air pollution on a series of chronic diseases," said Dr. Philip Landrigan to CNN. The dean for Global Health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York was not part of the study. "I think you can very directly link relaxation of air pollution control standards with increased sickness and death."

The study builds on previous research linking diabetes to air pollution, as well as a growing awareness of the extent of the health risks associated with pollution exposure.

"Ten or 15 years ago, we thought that air pollution caused pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis and not much more than that," Landrigan told CNN. "We now know that air pollution is a very important cause of heart disease and stroke and contributes to chronic lung disease, lung cancer and chronic kidney disease."

Health experts believe pollution triggers diabetes by reducing insulin production and increasing inflammation, making it harder for the body to turn glucose into energy.

To reach their conclusions, researchers at Washington University and the Veterans Affairs' Clinical Epidemiology Center followed 1.7 million veterans with no prior history of diabetes for a median of 8.5 years. They then compared the patient data with particulate matter levels provided by EPA air quality monitors and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellites.

They then looked at previous air pollution studies to develop a model for risk at different pollution levels and used Global Burden of Disease data to determine yearly diabetes cases and years of life lost.

One key finding was that diabetes risk increases at particulate matter levels of 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air, while the current EPA safe limit is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The researchers found that 21 percent of veterans developed diabetes when exposed to between 5 to 10 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. That number rose to 24 percent among veterans exposed to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms, an increase of 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people per year.

While even pollution levels considered safe in the U.S. can increase diabetes risk, the study did find that people in poorer countries that lack the resources to clean their air sufficiently, such as India, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana, faced the greatest risk from pollution-caused diabetes. People in wealthy countries like France, Finland and Iceland faced a lower risk, while people in the U.S. faced moderate risk, the study found.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Judge Halts Seismic Testing Permits During Shutdown

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Pxhere

DiCaprio-Funded Study: Staying Below 1.5ºC is Totally Possible

Climate change has been called the biggest challenge of our time. Last year, scientists with the United Nations said we basically have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avoid planetary catastrophe.

Amid a backdrop of rising global carbon emissions, there's a real case for pessimism. However, many scientists are hopeful of a way out.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Martin Luther King Jr. at steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

MLK Would Have Been an Environmental Leader, Too

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words and actions continue to resonate on the 90th anniversary of his birth.

As the country honors the life and legacy of the iconic civil rights leader today, we are reminded that the social justice and the climate movements are deeply connected.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A great tit family and nest. Bak GiSeok / 500px / Getty Images

Climate Change Leading to Fatal Bird Conflicts

By Marlene Cimons

Most Europeans know the great tit as an adorable, likeable yellow-and-black songbird that shows up to their feeders in the winter. But there may be one thing they don't know. That cute, fluffy bird can be a relentless killer.

The great tit's aggression can emerge in gruesome ways when it feels threatened by the pied flycatcher, a bird that spends most of the year in Africa, but migrates to Europe in the spring to breed. When flycatchers arrive at their European breeding grounds, they head for great tit territory, knowing that great tits—being year-round European residents—know the best nesting sites.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

35,000 Protestors in Berlin Call for Agricultural Revolution

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A Massachusetts road coated with snow and ice following the winter storm which prompted Trump to mock climate change. Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Trump Once Again Confuses Weather and Climate in Response to Deadly Winter Storm

President Donald Trump has once again contradicted the findings of the U.S. government when it comes to the threat posed by climate change. Days after a Department of Defense report outlined how climate-related events like wildfires and flooding put U.S. military installations at risk, Trump took to Twitter to mock the idea that the world could be getting warmer, Time reported.

Trump's tweet came in response to a massive winter storm that blanketed the Midwest and Northeast this weekend.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The fire that erupted after a pipeline explosion in Mexico Friday. FRANCISCO VILLEDA / AFP / Getty Images

85 Dead in Mexican Pipeline Explosion

A dramatic pipeline explosion in central Mexico Friday has killed at least 85 people, Mexican Health Minister Jorge Alcocer Valera said Sunday night, The Associated Press reported.

The explosion occurred in a field in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan as people rushed to gather fuel from the pipeline, which had been ruptured by suspected thieves. Many were covered in oil before a fireball shot into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!