(CNN) – According to a study published in Lancet magazine on Friday, the air pollution levels of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization are causing a worldwide increased risk of diabetes planetary health.
In 2016 alone, the study found that global air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new cases of diabetes (14% of the total). In the United States, air pollution was associated with 150,000 new cases of diabetes each year.
"There is an undeniable relationship between diabetes and particulate air pollution that is far below current standards," said lead study author dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University. "Many industry lobby groups argue that the current level is too severe and should be relaxed, and the evidence shows that the current level is still not sufficiently secure and needs to be tightened."
Particulate or particulate air pollution consists of microscopic dust, dirt, smoke, and soot particles mixed with liquid droplets. The finest particles regulated by the EPA are 2.5 microns; To put this in perspective, a strand of human hair is 70 microns or more than 30 times larger.
Anything less than 1
"Ten or 15 years ago, we thought that air pollution caused pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis and not much more," Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 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, contributing to chronic lung disease, lung cancer and chronic kidney disease."
Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the numbers worldwide are staggering: according to the WHO, 422 million adults were diagnosed by 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. Low and middle-income countries are the least able to catch the disease to cope with experienced the most growth.
While obesity, physical inactivity, and genetic risk are major contributors to diabetes, studies have shown a link between the disease and environmental pollution. It is believed that air pollution causes inflammation and reduces the ability of the pancreas to control insulin production.
In this study, researchers from the University of Washington Medical School in St. Louis collected data on 1.7 million US veteran non-diabetic veterans over a median of 8½ years. After reviewing all medically known causes of diabetes and conducting a series of statistical models, they compared the veteran's diabetes levels to the levels of contamination documented by the EPA and NASA.
Veterans exposed to air pollution between 5 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, and much lower than the EPA safety level of 12 micrograms, developed about 21% diabetes. Exposure to higher concentrations between 11.9 and 13.6 micrograms caused greater risk: about 24% developed diabetes. Researchers point out that while the 3% increase appears small, it causes 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people each year.
These data, along with information from thousands of studies worldwide, have been used to create a model for assessing diabetes risk across various levels of pollution. Finally, this data was combined with information from the Global Burden of Disease study, which estimates annual cases of diabetes and healthy life years due to environmental pollution to estimate risk worldwide.
Poorer countries with limited resources for the creation and maintenance of clean air policies such as India, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana faced a higher risk of diabetes contamination. Wealthy countries such as France, Finland and Iceland had a low risk. The US faced a moderate risk.
"This is a very successful report, very credible, and fits in well with this new understanding of the effects of air pollution on a number of chronic diseases," Landrigan said. "I think the relaxation of clean air standards can be directly linked to the increase in disease and death."
Landrigan is a member of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which last year published a report estimated that pollution is responsible for 9 million premature deaths in 2015. That's 15 times more deaths than all combined wars and violence and three times more than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
The Commission said that 92% of pollution-related deaths in low- and middle-income countries occurred among minorities and the poor. Children, he said, are particularly vulnerable, even for low dose exposure.
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