Air pollution linked to diabetes in America, study finds

    Los Angeles smog (Photo: Dave Herholz / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Air pollution is linked to 150,000 new cases of diabetes in America per year – that number climbs to 3.2 million cases worldwide.

    Polluted air is thought to trigger inflammation, reducing the pancreas’s ability to manage insulin production, new research reveals.

    Researchers gathered data on 1.7 million U.S. veterans with no prior history of diabetes and monitored them for eight and a half years. Nearly 21 percent of veterans exposed to air pollution between five to 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air developed diabetes. About 24 percent exposed to higher levels – 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms – developed the disease.

    Although the percent increase is small, it translates to another 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people each year. Anything less than 10 micrometers of polluted air passes into the bloodstream, traveling to various organs and causing a chronic inflammatory reaction thought to lead to disease.

    People have a greater chance of developing diabetes in India, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana – countries where few resources exist to create and maintain clean-air policies. Wealthy countries like France, Finland and Iceland face a low risk, whereas the U.S. faces a moderate risk.

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