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Air Pollution Linked to 3.2 Million Diabetes Cases Worldwide in 2016

04 July 2018

As for time lost to diabetes, that is about a cumulative 8.2 million "years of healthy life" were lost in 2016, only because of pollution-linked diabetes-how many years of healthy life are lost is often referred to as "disability-adjusted life years". Researchers do say that the while the main causes of diabetes remains unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity, the new research suggests that air pollution could also play a role.

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.

"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 NY.

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The researchers, led by the assistant professor of medicine, Zijand Al-Ali, of the University of Washington at St. Louis, who published in the medical journal "The Lancet Planetary Health", analyzed data for about 1.7 million people without a history of diabetes, in depth 8.5 years, correlating the level of pollution they were exposed to, with the possibility of developing diabetes along the way. Al-Aly said that it was important to focus attention on the matter since many industry-lobbying groups say that the current acceptable pollution levels are too strict and the agencies should relax it. "Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened", the researcher added.

The researchers examined the relationship between particulate matter and the risk of diabetes by first analysing data from 1.7 million US veterans. This rose to 24% when the pollution was at 11.9-13.6 micrograms per cubic meter.

As shown by these calculations, the risk to get diabetes begins to increase even at relatively low concentrations of aerosols and harmful substances in the air, more than 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter. More than 420 million people are affected by diabetes worldwide, and roughly 30 million people in the United States alone.

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"We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution now considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)". Around 14 percent of all new diabetes cases across the world that year could be attributed to pollution.

All this data was fed through statistical models meant to test whether any link can be observed between air pollution levels and diabetes incidence. A new report warned that outdoor air pollution may be a significant contributor to diabetes cases around the world. Wealthier countries such as France, Finland and Iceland faced a low risk.

The study was carried out by Washington University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System.

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The U.S. ranked moderately on the scale of pollution-related diabetes among its population. Also, nobody ever spoke of its relation with air pollution before this study did. Particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers can enter the lungs and also pass into the bloodstream, travel to various organs, and produce an inflammatory reaction that can lead to chronic health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Air Pollution Linked to 3.2 Million Diabetes Cases Worldwide in 2016