Poison that dissolves slowly in the air can give you type 2 diabetes, says the latest study

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
6 Min Read


New Delhi/Mumbai: Now due to the poisonous air present in the atmosphere, you are also at risk of type 2 diabetes. Earlier polluted particles were the cause of lung, heart attack and cancer, but recent studies are showing that pollution is directly related to sugar as well. Studies have also been done in America, Europe and China regarding this. In India too, a study conducted on two cities has found that the more PM 2.5 is in the air, the more the blood sugar level increases. Earlier this month, the leading medical journal 'Journal of Association of Physicians of India' (JAPI), a national newspaper published from Mumbai, published an article titled “Air Pollution: A New Cause of Type 2 Diabetes?”. Chennai-based diabetes specialist Dr V Mohan is one of the authors of this editorial. He says that now we know that PM 2.5 is an endocrine disruptor. It is estimated that every year about 20,000 people in Mumbai and 50,000 people in Delhi die due to air pollution.

What did the study find?
A few months ago, Dr Mohan, along with researchers from the Public Health Foundation of India, published the country’s first study to measure the link between PM2.5 and diabetes. The study, published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, found evidence linking short-term, medium-term and long-term exposure to PM2.5 to diabetes. The study showed that an increase of 10 grams per cubic metre in the average monthly air concentration of PM2.5 was associated with a 0.4 milligrams per deciliter increase in fingerstick blood test and a 0.021 unit increase in HbA1c test. HbA1c is a blood test that measures blood sugar levels over a three-month period.

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This study may not be applicable across India
For this study, 12,064 adults living in Delhi and Chennai were researched for seven years. In the study, two methods were adopted to monitor the air quality – one through satellite and the other information from ground-mounted monitors, apart from this, the blood sugar level of the participants was also checked. The study found that an average increase of 10 grams per cubic meter in the amount of PM 2.5 in the air every year increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 22 percent. Delhi endocrinologist Dr. Anoop Mishra says that the link between air pollution and diabetes is already known. This study reiterates this for two cities of India, but it may not be applicable to the whole of India. The biggest cause of diabetes is excess fat in the body

Dr Mangesh Tewari, editor-in-chief of JAPI and co-author of the PM 2.5-Diabetes editorial, said air pollution is one of the many factors contributing to the diabetes epidemic in India. India is known as the diabetes capital, he said. Dr Tewari further said that things like soil pollution, drugs given to animals, poor sanitation also contribute to endocrine disruption. Vegetables in Mumbai are grown in poor conditions and sold on a large scale. For non-communicable diseases like diabetes, we have to look at the whole picture.

The good news is that it can be prevented
Senior endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi says climate change causes disturbances in weather patterns, which also changes disease patterns. He further added that air, water and vehicular pollution worsens it. According to Dr Mohan, one positive thing about the relationship between diabetes and PM 2.5 is that air pollution is preventable. It is a preventable cause. Some of the major sources of air pollution that we know are stubble burning by farmers, smoke from vehicles, industrial pollution, use of firewood or coal in kitchens with poor air quality, or pollution from fireworks during festivals like Diwali. All of these can be changed through legislation and education by government and non-government organisations, the JAPI article said.

Harm caused by air pollution

➤9 out of 10 people around the world breathe polluted air. This causes more than 4 million premature deaths every year worldwide.
Air pollutants cause short-term and long-term health harm, especially to the heart and lungs.
So far, air pollution has been mainly linked to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis and some types of cancer.
Recent studies have also linked air pollution to stroke and hearing loss.
The biggest cause of air pollution is particulate matter (PM) found in the air. It can be of different sizes, chemical and biological composition.

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