Pollution not linked to type 1 diabetes

Posted on 22 November 2018

Man spraying green fields with pesticides
Chemicals found in pesticides were not linked to type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is not linked to 27 different pollutants and chemicals, according to the results of a new study.

The team found that levels of various chemicals in the blood did not correlate with the development of type 1 diabetes in Finnish and Estonian children.

These results offer reassurance for families, and help us to rule out factors that are not linked to type 1 diabetes.

Why did they do this research?

The hunt is on for environmental factors that could be behind the increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes.

The use of certain chemicals has been similarly increasing in industrialised countries. Previous research has found that some common chemicals – some of which are now banned – in things like packaging, coatings and pesticides can affect the function of the immune system.

The team therefore investigated whether 27 common chemicals and pollutants were linked to the development of type 1 diabetes in children.

What did they do?

The team analysed blood samples from hundreds of children at genetic risk of type 1 diabetes one year after birth and at four years old. The children, who were part of two existing studies, were tracked to see if they had developed type 1 diabetes by 2017. The researchers also studied cord blood samples from the mothers when the children were born.

This allowed the researchers to study whether exposure to pollution in the womb and in early childhood could be linked to the development of type 1 diabetes.

What did they find?

Children who lived in the larger, capital city of Helsinki had higher levels of chemicals in the blood than children living in smaller cities or the outskirts.

There was no link however between the levels of chemicals present in the blood and the development of type 1 diabetes.

What does this mean for type 1?

These results suggest that common chemicals and pollutants do not increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The researchers made this clear in their paper:

“Our results do not support the view that exposure to the studied environmental chemicals during foetal life or early childhood is a significant risk factor for later development of beta cell autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes.”

This is reassuring news for people living with type 1 diabetes and their families.

The hunt for environmental factors linked with type 1 diabetes however continues.

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