Does pollution cause type 1 diabetes?

As the incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) continues to grow, Canadians have long speculated whether environmental factors – namely pollution – could be responsible for triggering an autoimmune attack.

While a number of chemicals, including those found in pesticides and some of which are now banned, have been linked to type 2 diabetes, exposure to pollution is not a significant factor in the development of T1D, according to a new study. In fact, researchers from the University of Helsinki have excluded 27 common pollutants and chemicals as possible causes after analyzing hundreds of blood samples from Finnish and Estonian children at genetic risk of T1D. The young participants, who were part of two existing studies, were tracked to see if they had developed the condition by 2017. The researchers also looked at cord blood samples from the children’s mothers following delivery in order to determine whether exposure to pollution in the womb and in early childhood plays a role.

Among their findings, children who lived in the larger, capital city of Helsinki had higher levels of chemicals in their blood than those residing in smaller cities or the outskirts. As well, there was no connection between the levels of chemicals present in the blood and an increased risk for T1D.

The use of harmful substances has grown considerably among industrialized countries in recent years, and researchers will continue to explore environmental factors with the hope of discovering a link to T1D.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog. 

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