A recent study suggests that exposure to air pollution for even as little time as a month or two may increase the risk of developing diabetes, especially for people who are obese.
The study focused on 1,000 people living in southern California found a link between short-term exposure to contaminated air and an increased risk of high cholesterol as well as damage to the body’s ability to process blood sugar – both of which are major risk factors for diabetes.
The findings suggest that people living in cities and other areas with poor air quality should be mindful of potential risks and take precautions.
Scientists have not clearly identified the link as to how air pollution might contribute to getting diabetes, but there study author, Dr. Frank Gilliland, director of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center and researcher at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said it is possible that air pollution causes inflammation in the body. That inflammation can then trigger a chain reaction that makes it more difficult for people to process blood sugar.
One of the study’s limitations was the lack of data on how long people had lived at their current residence, a factor that could determine lifetime exposure to air pollution.
Regardless, the findings suggest that people living in cities and other areas with poor air quality should be mindful of potential risks and take precautions, said Michael Jerrett, director of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Air pollution is an involuntary risk factor,” Jerrett said. “We all breathe the air, and this should create a stronger incentive for government to take action to reduce emissions that lead to air pollution.”