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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.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.