CNN

Air pollution linked to 3.2 million new diabetes cases in one year

Jun 30, 2018, 12:14 AM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:01 pm
FILE -- Levels of air pollution well below what is considered safe by the US Environmental Protecti...
FILE -- Levels of air pollution well below what is considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization are causing an increased risk of diabetes worldwide, according to a study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

(CNN) — Levels of air pollution well below what is considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization are causing an increased risk of diabetes worldwide, according to a study published Friday in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

In 2016 alone, the study found that air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases –14% of the total — around the world. In the United States, air pollution was linked to 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year.

“There’s an undeniable relationship between diabetes and and particle air pollution levels well below the current safe standards,” said senior study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University. “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.”

Particulate or particle air pollution is made up of microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke and soot mixed with liquid droplets. The finest particles regulated by the EPA are 2.5 micrometers; to put that in perspective, a strand of human hair is 70 micrometers, or more than 30 times larger.

Anything less than 10 micrometers can not only enter the lungs, it can pass into the bloodstream, where it is carried to various organs and begins a chronic inflammatory reaction thought to lead to disease.

“Ten or 15 years ago, we thought that air pollution caused pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis and not much more than that,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who was not involved in the study. “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.”

Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the numbers worldwide are staggering: According to WHO, 422 million adults had been diagnosed by 2014, compared with 108 million in 1980. Low- and middle-income countries least able to manage the disease were experiencing the most growth.

While obesity, lack of exercise and genetic risk are major drivers for diabetes, studies have shown a link between the disease and pollution. Air pollution is thought to trigger inflammation and reduce the ability of the pancreas to manage insulin production.

In this study, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis gathered data on 1.7 million US veterans with no history of diabetes who had been followed for a median of 8½ years. After controlling for all medically known causes of diabetes and running a series of statistical models, they compared the veterans’ levels of diabetes to pollution levels documented by the EPA and NASA.

In veterans exposed to air pollution between 5 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, much less than the EPA safe level of 12 micrograms, approximately 21% developed diabetes. Being exposed to higher levels, between 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms, created a greater risk: About 24% developed diabetes. Researchers point out that while the 3% increase appears small, it translates into an additional 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people each year.

Those data, along with information culled from thousands of studies worldwide, were used to create a model to evaluate diabetes risk across various pollution levels. Finally, those data were combined with information from the Global Burden of Disease study, which estimates annual cases of diabetes and healthy years of life lost due to pollution, to estimate risk worldwide.

Poorer countries with few resources to create and maintain clean-air policies, such as India, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana, faced a higher diabetes-pollution risk. Wealthier countries such as France, Finland and Iceland faced a low risk. The US faced a moderate risk.

“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,” Landrigan said. “I think you can very directly link relaxation of air pollution control standards with increased sickness and death.”

Landrigan is a member of The Lancet Commission on pollution and health, which released a report last year estimating that pollution was responsible for 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015. That’s 15 times more deaths than all wars and violence combined and three times more than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.

The commission said that 92% of pollution-related deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries among minorities and the poor. Children, it said, are especially vulnerable, even to low-dose exposure.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

CNN

Kevin Johnson is shown at the Clayton Courthouse Tuesday, April 3, 2007, in Clayton, Mo....
Dakin Andone, CNN

Man who murdered police officer in 2005 has been executed in Missouri

Kevin Johnson -- a death row inmate who was convicted in the 2005 murder of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer but claimed racial bias in his prosecution -- was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection.
1 day ago
A tree is down on top of a trailer home....
Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Melissa Alonso and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

At least 2 killed in Alabama as severe storms and tornadoes sweep across the South

Severe storms and tornadoes swept through parts of the South from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, killing at least two people in Alabama and damaging homes, other buildings and downing trees in several states, officials said.
1 day ago
Chick-fil-A is selling merchandise for the first-time ever. (CNN)...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Chick-fil-A is selling merchandise for the first time ever

If your holiday wish list includes a Chick-fil-A sauce-themed blanket or a chicken nugget pillow, look no further.
1 day ago
Cecily Aguilar pleaded guilty to being involved in covering up the death of Army Spc. Vanessa Guill...
Joe Sutton, Matt Phillips and Amir Vera, CNN

Cecily Aguilar pleads guilty in connection with death of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen

Cecily Aguilar, who was arrested in 2020 in connection with the disappearance of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to being involved in the cover-up of her death, according to CNN affiliate KWTX and an attorney for Guillen's family.
2 days ago
The download page for ByteDance Ltd.'s TikTok app is arranged for a photograph on a smartphone in S...
Stella Chan and Leslie Perrot, CNN

South Dakota governor bans state employees from using TikTok on government devices

South Dakota's governor signed an executive order on Tuesday banning state agencies, employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on government devices
2 days ago
Kilauea volcano...
Amir Vera, Holly Yan and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

2 new lava flows cascade down Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano

The rare sight of two neighboring volcanoes erupting simultaneously became even more astounding Tuesday as new lava flows gushed down slopes on Hawaii's Big Island.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Air pollution linked to 3.2 million new diabetes cases in one year