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Scientists Say Pesticides and Other Pollutants May Be Linked to Diabetes

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2008) University of Cambridge scientists say there may be a link between persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including pesticides, and Type 2 Diabetes. The Cambridge scientists are advocating additional research into the little understood links between environmental pollution and adult onset diabetes.

In the most recent edition of the journal Lancet, Oliver Jones, Ph.D., and Julian Griffin, Ph.D., highlight the need to research the possible link between persistent organic pollutants (POPs, a group which includes many pesticides) and insulin resistance, which can lead to adult onset diabetes.

In their commentary, Dr. Jones and Dr. Griffin cite peer reviewed research including that of D. Lee, et al, which demonstrated a very strong relationship between the levels of POPs in blood, particularly organochlorine compounds, and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Of course correlation does not automatically imply causation,” says Dr. Jones. “But if there is indeed a link, the health implications could be tremendous. At present there is very limited information. Research into adult onset diabetes currently focuses on genetics and obesity; there has been almost no consideration for the possible influence of environmental factors such as pollution.”

Interestingly, in the Lee study an association between obesity and diabetes was absent in people with low concentrations of POPs in their blood. In other words, individuals were more at risk of diabetes if they were thin with high levels of POPs in their blood than if they were overweight but with low levels of POPs.

Dr. Jones said, “I think research should be carried out to first test the hypothesis that POPs exposure can cause diabetes, perhaps using cell or tissue cultures, so we know for sure if this can occur. Assuming POPs can have this effect, the next step would be to try and develop a method of treatment for those people who might be affected.”

POPs came into prominence as effective pesticides with the introduction of DDT in the 1940s. However, many of these chemicals, including DDT, fell out of favor after they were blamed for the declining number of wild birds and other animals and negative human health effects. As the compounds biodegrade slowly, they continue to find their way into the food chain and ultimately into the blood streams of individuals even though many of these toxins were banned many years ago. Additionally, these compounds can persist in body fat for very long periods of time following exposure.


3 Responses to “Scientists Say Pesticides and Other Pollutants May Be Linked to Diabetes”

  1. 1
    Dr. Richard A. Cassidy Says:

    This is a remarkable study. Of the six POPs studied, 2 chlordane compounds -oxychlordane and trans-nanochlor had the highest association with the prevalence of diabetes. Chlordane was used extensively in agriculture from the 1950s until banned in 1975 but still found in the soil. Chlordane was mainly used for corn and soybean production and on vegetable crops. Contaminated corn and soybeans fed to livestock results in the bioaccumulation of chlordane compounds (oxychlordane, trans-chlordane, heptachlor epoxide, and nonachlor) in the fat of these farm animals. HOWEVER, USEPA STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT PEOPLE LIVING IN CHLORDANE-TREATED HOMES MAY BE INHALING 10 TIMES THE AMOUNT OF CHLORDANE AS INGESTING FROM FOOD. Considering that 30 million homes have been treated, inhaling of chlordane in homes over many years may be a risk factor not currently appreciated. My published studies have shown that exposing human white blood cell to level of chlordane found in blood of the US populace cause increase oxidant production that are known to damage the cell that produce insulin.

  2. 2
    dog looks for safe lawn Says:

    Recently I conversed with some leading environemntal activists and several research scientists – the majority of whom have diabetes – I am wondering if their direct exposure to these poisons (pesticides) has, in fact, caused serious damage to their pancreas. None of these people are over weight; they regularly exercise and their diet compared to the general population is healthy…so what gives?

  3. 3
    mark Says:

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