Air pollution has often been linked with Type 2 diabetes in both adults and children. Could it have long-ranging effects on a fetus? According to the journal Environment International, this could well be the case. In May 2017, the publication reported on a study released by the Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, and several other research centers in Belgium.

The Hasselt University study included 590 infants. Cord blood – the baby’s blood at birth, showed the highest insulin levels corresponded with the highest levels of small particles called PM10 and PM2.5. There was no relationship between insulin and NO2. The investigators speculated elevated levels of polluting particles in the blood while the baby is in the womb could lead to sugar intolerance and Type 2 diabetes later in life.

1. PM10 particles are 10 microns wide, or about 1/7th of the width of a human hair. They include pollen, dust, and mold spores.

2. PM2.5 particles are 2.5 microns in width. These particles are about 3 percent, as wide as a human hair and can be seen only with an electron microscope. They include smoke, organic molecules, and metals.

Some particles range between PM2.5 and PM10. They are released into the air by…

  • vehicles burning fuel and stirring up dust,
  • forest fires,
  • burning wood and paper in homes,
  • some agricultural operations,
  • industry,
  • burning fuel,
  • grinding metal,
  • crushing materials,
  • organic chemical processes.

The particles are small enough to be inhaled into our lungs where they enter the bloodstream and proceed throughout the rest of our body. According to the American Diabetes Association, several studies have shown links between air pollution and diabetes…

  • in Denmark over 51,000 nondiabetic individuals showed a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the presence of air pollution.
  • in the United States, 2700 counties reported higher numbers of people with diabetes in areas with the highest levels of PM2.5 and PM10.
  • in Iran, 374 children in several cities showed a relationship between air pollution and insulin resistance, the cause of Type 2 diabetes.
  • in Taiwan over 1,000 older adults demonstrated a relationship between PM10, HbA1c, and fasting blood sugar.
  • in Ruhr, Germany, 1776 women showed a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes with more exposure to PM10.

Other health conditions caused or made worse by air pollution include…

  • heart disease,
  • congestive heart failure,
  • an irregular heartbeat,
  • heart attack,
  • coronary artery disease,
  • different lung diseases,
  • asthma,
  • bronchitis, and
  • emphysema,

Type 2 diabetes is occurring in epidemic proportion throughout the world and we cannot control all the factors. But some factors we can…

  • eat a diet rich in natural fruits and vegetables and low in animal fats,
  • eat healthy carbohydrates and fiber rich foods,
  • avoid foods containing high-fructose corn syrup,
  • exercise to increase your fat burning potential and lower your blood sugar,
  • quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake, and
  • check with your doctor to see if you are taking any medications that cause high blood sugar.