Long-term exposure to major air pollutant increases risk of diabetes

KARACHI:Long-term exposure to the major air pollutant PM2.5 increases the risk of diabetes, an international study conducted in China has found, linking pollution to a health risk rarely talked about.

The large-scale study conducted over a decade in China found that the risk of the disease increased by about 15.7 percent for an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of long-term concentration of the pollutant, considered one of the worst.

“The adverse effects of PM2.5 were larger among young-to- middle-aged subjects, females, non-smokers and subjects with lower body mass index,” the study found. China is said to have the largest number of patients suffering from diabetes in the world, a non-communicable disease which has rapidly spread in the country. It also has a relatively higher concentration of PM2.5 concentration in the air despite improvement in air quality in cities like Beijing in the last few years.

“Diabetes causes substantial economic and health burdens worldwide. However, the association between air pollution and diabetes incidence is rarely reported in the developing countries, especially in China which has a relatively high PM2.5 concentration,” the official news agency, Xinhua said in a report on the link between pollution and diabetes.

“The study revealed that PM2.5 was an important risk factor for diabetes incidence in China and sustained improvement of air quality will help decrease the diabetes epidemic in China,” the Xinhua report said.

Experts from the Fuwai hospital in Beijing under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and US’s Emory University evaluated the association between long-term exposure to PM2.5 and diabetes incidence based on data collected from more than 88,000 Chinese adults. The research team used satellite-based PM2.5 concentrations to assess PM2.5 exposure for each subject during the period 2004-2015.

The research was published in the journal Environment International, a peer-reviewed science journal on environment.

Lu Xiangfeng, one of the researchers, said the study would benefit policy making and intervention design in diabetes prevention. “Our future work will focus on introducing spatiotemporal data of PM2.5 at higher resolution and indoor source of exposures to further detect the health effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5,” Lu was quoted as saying in the report.

The China study comes in backdrop of a new UN report released over the weekend which lauded Beijing’s efforts in curbing pollution. The report, A Review of 20 years’ Air Pollution Control in Beijing, was compiled by a UN Environment-led team of international and Chinese experts over two years. It covers 1998 to the end of 2017.

“This improvement in air quality didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of an enormous investment of time, resources and political will,” said Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the UN Environment was quoted as saying by the Chinese state media. “Understanding Beijing’s air pollution story is crucial for any nation, district or municipality that wishes to follow a similar path.”