Traffic-driven diabetes

Air pollution may raise risk

imageSTRESS, frustration, rising blood pressure and breathing problems are common in motorists who spend hours in traffic jams. Now scientists have found another health consequence of traffic snarls— diabetes.

Scientists from German Diabetes Centre and the Institute for Environmental Medical Research at Heinrich Heine University, Germany, claim traffic-related air pollution could raise a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study, led by Wolfgang Rathmann, started in 1985. It included 1,775 healthy women, all 55 years old. They were from the industrialised Rhur district of West Germany and nearby non-industrialised towns. The researchers examined the participants again between 1990-2006 and found that 187 of them had developed diabetes. Data from environmental agencies was collected to determine each woman’s exposure to air pollution.

Living within 100 metres of busy roads more than doubled the risk of diabetes, Rathmann said. Components of traffic pollution, particularly nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, were significantly associated with a higher risk of the disease, he added. The more pollution a woman encountered, the greater was her chance of developing diabetes, the researchers concluded in the September issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Rathmann called for additional confirmatory research so that preventive measures could be taken. He commented, “The relevance of our study may be greater in some Asian countries, including India, because air pollution there is 10 times higher than in Germany.” India is home to 50 million diabetics.

Ambrish Mithal, who heads the division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Medanta Hospital, Gurgaon, said “though the study is interesting and relevant in Indian context, it is preliminary in nature”.

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