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Link between exposure to pollutants and type 2 diabetes


People exposed to high levels of persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs), which are most likely to come from eating fatty fish such as salmon, might be at risk of developing diabetes.

A study published today in the open access journal Environmental Health reveals that exposure to high levels of POPs, a family of toxic chemicals that includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the insecticide DDT, is associated with a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in a population of fishermen and their wives. POPs are by-products of industrial and agricultural processes and are widespread in the environment.

Lars Rylander and colleagues from the University of Lund, Sweden, studied the incidence of type 2 diabetes in196 fishermen and 184 fishermen’s wives, and analysed levels in their blood of the POP residue CB-153, and DDE, the main by-product of DDT. Levels of both residues reflect exposure to POPs.

Rylander et al.’s results show that 6% of men and 5% of women who took part in the study have diabetes. Those that were found to have type 2 diabetes have significantly higher blood levels of both CB-153 and DDE than non-diabetics in the group of fisherman and fisherman’s wives, which suggests high exposure to POPs. A statistical analysis of the results shows that exposure to CB-153 and DDE is significantly associated with a high prevalence of diabetes.

Juliette Savin | alfa
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